Pop princess Britney Spears has hit back after she was criticised for driving with her baby son on her lap - blaming the paparazzi for "stalking" her.

The singer was attacked by child safety campaigners after pictures appeared yesterday (06FEB06) showing her driving along California's Pacific Coast Highway in her black Lincoln Navigator with five-month-old SEAN PRESTON sat on her lap.

According to People magazine, Spears had sat the baby on her lap while her bodyguard went into a branch of Starbucks. After the bodyguard returned, photographers began to hassle the singer, so she sped off while still holding her son.

But Spears has released a statement that reads: "Today I had a horrifying, frightful encounter with the paparazzi while I was with my baby.

"Because of a recent incident when I was trapped in my car without my baby by a throng of paparazzi, I was terrified that this time the physically aggressive paparazzi would put both me and my baby in danger.

"I instinctively took measures to get my baby and me out of harm's way, but the paparazzi continued to stalk us, and took photos of us which were sold to the media.

"I love my child and would do anything to protect him."