Legal i

Legal i – Speeding and technical defences

QUESTION Can speed camera evidence be challenged, if, for example, the camera might not have been working or operated properly? Are there any other technical defences to speeding charges?

ANSWER Speeding offences are created by legislation, so they are themselves technical offences and therefore if the technical requirements of proving the offence have not been satisfied, then you would have a defence.
Dealing first with ‘other technical defences’, these include the size, colouring and placement of speed limit signs, all of which are specified in regulations. If they are materially incorrect, then you would have a defence. Where there are no signs, then you are probably in a ‘restricted road’. It is an offence to drive in excess of 30mph on a restricted road. You usually know when you’re on a restricted road, because it will have a system of street lighting, with the lamps being not more than 200 yards apart, but confusingly there are roads that do not have this street lighting where the highway authority has made a direction that it shall be a restricted road. If there is no system of street lighting, as described, and there has been no direction by the highway authority, then you might have a defence, but it is the system that must be defective, rather than a defect with one lamp. If a lamp is temporarily missing so that in one place the street lights are more than 200 yards apart, there is still a ‘system’ of street lighting. There was a case where there were four street lamps, two of which were 201.5 yards apart and the other two were 200 yards apart. The court still convicted saying that the additional 1.5 yards was too small a discrepancy to make a meaningful difference. Another court has ruled that there is a conforming system of street lighting where some of the lamps were 212 yards apart, but the average distance between lamps was 95 yards.
These cases illustrate that the courts are reluctant to allow technical defences, and this has become increasingly apparent when challenging the evidence of speed cameras. In a recent appeal case, the court rejected the defence argument that failure to check the accuracy of a speed detection device prior to its use was not necessary, even though both the manufacturer of the device and the guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers recommended this. Importantly, the court noted that there was no evidence before the original court to suggest that the device was not working properly and this tends to be the starting point if you are to have any hope of challenging speed detection evidence on technical grounds. If, for example, you have a string of witnesses to say that you were travelling 10mph under the speed limit and the device measured your speed at 10mph over the limit, then the court might be more willing to consider technical challenges as to the accuracy of the device or the correctness of its use.
Over the course of forthcoming articles we will examine some of the better known speed detection devices and where they might be vulnerable to challenge.

Designed by solicitors, tested by barristers and available around the clock, Road Traffic Representation is an online legal system that allows people accused of a motoring offence to get free advice on how the law will be applied in their case, and referral to a telephone helpline and representation by a barrister in court if required. Practising solicitor Martin Langan spent two years designing the system and creating the data repository which allows the software to analyse road traffic offences with the same authority as a solicitor.

Twitter: martinlangan
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