Drivers Defence - When speed signs fail

Posted by Barry Culshaw on
Blake Morgan's Driver Defence team is the leading team of specialist road traffic lawyers in the South of England.  We have been recognised by legal directory Chambers and Partners: A Client's Guide to the Legal Profession 2017 as a Band 1 firm in this field.  Our team of specialist lawyers travel all the country to help motorists facing a driving ban or having penalty points put on their licence. Our work has taken us to Magistrates and Crown Courts all over the country.  Many of our cases have reached the Higher Courts. 

The case

H, who faced one count of speeding, consulted our Driver Defence team for help. The prosecution had been brought by Suffolk Constabulary and was initially listed for hearing before Ipswich Magistrates' Court. H was alleged to have contravened a temporary 30 mph speed limit, which was in place due to roadworks. The section of road in question, was normally subject to a national speed limit, for single carriageway roads of 60 miles mph.

H had been stopped by a police officer, who was carrying out a speed check using a Unipar laser speed measuring device. There was no issue that H's vehicle was travelling at 43 miles per hour. The officer offered H the opportunity of dealing with the matter by way of a fixed penalty involving payment of £100 and endorsement of H's driving licence with three penalty points. H declined this offer, as he was adamant that he had not seen any speed limit signing indicating a reduced 30 mph speed limit.

How our Driver Defence team helped

Barry Culshaw, a consultant and road traffic specialist with Blake Morgan, had conduct of the case throughout and advised H to tender a not guilty plea. The matter was listed for trial at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court. In preparing his defence, H had been proactive right from the outset and shortly after the alleged speeding incident, had revisited the enforcement site and taken a series of photographs of the speed limit signing. The photographs supported the defendant's defence that the speed limit signing, in place at the material time, did not provide adequate guidance to motorists of a 30 mph speed limit. Accordingly, the court was prohibited from convicting any motorist by virtue of the provisions of section 85(4) The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

The flaws in the signing regime, relating to the speed enforcement site, comprised four principal areas of concern.

Firstly, when entering the section of road south east bound, there was an absence of paired 30 mph terminal signs. The only terminal sign was situated on the nearside of the road, as approached by motorists from the south east. There was no terminal sign, as required, on the offside of the road.

Secondly, the single terminal sign on entering the 30 mph speed limit, on the nearside of the road, was completely obscured by foliage rendering the sign inconspicuous.

Thirdly, the section of road in question was not street lit and, therefore, there was a requirement to place 30 mph repeater signing at regular intervals. Crucial repeater signing on the nearside of the road on the approach to where the speed check took place was obscured by street furniture.

Fourthly, a second repeater sign which was situated on the offside for south east bound motorists, was again obscured by street furniture and failed to meet the requirements of conspicuity.

The outcome

Pursuant to Barry's advice, a detailed written legal argument was lodged with the court and served on the Crown Prosecution Service ("CPS"). The day before the trial, the CPS decided to discontinue the case on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

H was vindicated in his decision to refuse to accept the fixed penalty. The case also illustrates the importance of checking the adequacy of speed limit signing particularly when (as in this case) a reduced speed limit is involved and temporary speed limit signing is in place

About the Author

Barry Specialises in road transport law within our Driver Defence team. He represents clients facing allegations of careless/dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol and speeding.

Barry Culshaw
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023 8085 7209

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