I once appealed against a speed camera alleged offence, and I won.
When this story was first published on the old blog I had to be careful in the wording of it and certainly not name the authority concerned, I did not trust them not to pursue me further then and I don’t now, so here goes…
As everyone in the UK knows, if you go out driving on our roads you are likely to come across one or several speed cameras located at what are supposed to be prevailing accident spots, back in 2006 when I first wrote this local authorities were getting into bed with their local police force with a joint anticipation of a huge revenue to be garnered from the nations speeding motorists and speed cameras grew as prolific as dandelions on an uncut lawn, since then the realisation that a speed camera will eventually stop paying for itself as the locals heed its speeding message has meant that their proliferation has ceased, the gravy train has ceased and they are now what they should always have been – a road safety device.
But in 2005 I received in the office a notification of intended prosecution, which as everyone who has received one knows is basically a gun to your head and a smiled threat of a court case and a huge fine and costs for an alleged offence with no presentation of evidence necessary other than the words “we have photographic proof but we’re not going to show you it”.
Most people pay the £60 fine and take the three points on their licence for want of ridding themselves of the bureaucracy and the sheer pain in the arseness of having to appeal, the mitigation “But it wasn’t me” doesn’t tend to work that well when they send you off to court and the judge asks “Well who was it then” because if you can’t tell them who it was who was driving your car on that day then they’ll prosecute you anyway, after all, its your car and you should know who was driving it unless it was stolen in which case why hadn’t you reported it ?
They’ve thought this thing through haven’t they ?
In a business scenario it perfectly possible for a business owner, who is responsible for all of the vehicles in the company, to be unaware of who was driving a specific vehicle on a specific day in the past, yes you are supposed to keep meticulous records and probably employ a person who’s sole job it is to sit on a chair at the entrance gate to your premises and write down in a triplicate pad who is driving each vehicle as it leaves – but that scenario only exists in the mind of civil servants and not the real world of business at all.
So one morning I opened the post and out dropped a notice of intended prosecution – another one, like confetti in our office they were, mainly from one specific driver who eventually learned to slow down when he ran out of space on his licence for all the penalty points.
It was the last straw, I was sick and tired of receiving these threats in the post from an organisation that I funded and pensioned through taxation, government shouldn’t work by threat and it shouldn’t fund raise by threat, I had reached the end of my rope – I appealed.
And I won, because the authority who issued the notification were inept and incapable of doing the job that they had been appointed to do, as you will learn by reading on…
It wasn’t my speeding that caused the arrival of the self-convictiing letter, the one that says “we have a photo of your car speeding, we have assumed you were the driver and we are now going to prosecute you on that assumption, you know who did it, its your job to prove that it wasn’t you so just tick this box and send us £60 and your drivers licence”, no it was my brother – or to be precise, we think it was my brother, in fact I’d better be careful here, it was a pool car and so it could have been any one of three of us who were driving on that date.
How could you not remember I hear you all asking ?
Well, here is where the ineptitude comes in – the date of the alleged offence was 12th June – we received the notification on 4th November.
I spoke to a lawyer friend and he advised that the notification should be sent to you within 14 days – I wrote back to the authority and told them that because more than 14 days had elapsed we couldn’t ID the driver without seeing the photo and in any case was their approach absolutely legal at this time ?
They replied that the 14 day rule only applies when vehicles can be instantly traced to their owner, our vehicle was leased and so they were allowed to take as long as they liked when tracing the registered keeper of the vehicle, which was me, and PS they don’t release the photo as its their evidence, they’ll show you it in court – if you dare to go that far.
I replied to inform them that the leasors of the car were Peugeot UK and had been since the car had rolled off their own production line, they were the only people on the registration document and they knew who I was, and they would have informed the authority within 14 days of who I was as they would have been prosecuted if they hadn’t done so – I asked them again what the reason for the five month delay was and explained why the five month delay made the ID of the driver so hard and could I see the photo as it was the only way that I could help them.
They eventually sent me a copy of their evidence – the five month old photo that they were hoping to present in court.
We pissed ourselves laughing when we saw the picture of the front of our car on a very sunny day in June with the windscreen completely bleached out by the sun and the knuckles of the driver just about visible on the steering wheel, and nothing else to ID him/her/whoever.
We had a quick meeting in the office and agreed that we’d all love to have our day down at the magistrates court where we could all stand in line and hold our knuckles out for the magistrate to decide who the driver was and I wrote back to the authority to inform them so.
That was six years ago – they haven’t replied to me yet.
The Road Safety Partnership that was involved had obviously made a huge balls up of this case and I dare say that our photo was one of a batch from that June day which had been misplaced and only discovered five months later, but the authority had the brass balls and arrogance to still send out the speeding notices in the smug knowledge that a good percentage of those folk involved would simply cough up the £60 and stand the 3 points on their licence – when we stood up to them they backed down (or at least I think they’ve backed down, I wouldn’t put it past some fuckwit civil servant to write to us again sometime soon).