Speeding allegation case
Barry Culshaw, in our Motoring Offences team was consulted by a client regarding a summons to Fareham Magistrates' Court alleging one count of speeding.
Our client was alleged to have been driving an articulated goods vehicle northbound on the M275 motorway in Portsmouth, Hampshire, which was at the time subject to a temporary 40 mph speed restriction due to to roadworks on the section of road. The prosecution was brought by Hampshire Constabulary who alleged that our client's vehicle was travelling at 66 mph. Due to the excessive speed alleged, Hampshire Constabulary informed our client that it would not be possible to deal with the matter under the fixed penalty procedure and a summons was issued against him requiring his attendance at court.
As part of the prosecution case, Hampshire Constabulary served a certificate in accordance with Section 20 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 certifying that a Speed Violation Detection Deterrent (SVDD), is a prescribed device of a type approved by the Secretary of State. The device is designed for recording a measurement of the speed of a motor vehicle by means of an attended camera capturing images of a vehicle at each of two predetermined positions on the road and by recording the time at each position and calculating the average speed over that distance. The certificate concluded with the statement that to the best of the knowledge and belief of the author the device was operated in accordance with the approval given and was functioning and operated correctly at the time.
Our client did not believe that the speed reading was accurate. He stated he had placed the vehicle in cruise control at 60 kmph which equates to approximately 38 mph. He was adamant that he would not have been exceeding the 40 mph speed limit. The vehicle's tachograph records also indicated that the vehicle was limited to a maximum speed of 89 kmph which equates to 56 mph. This further reinforced our client's belief that the speed reading produced by the speed detection device could not be accurate.
It was only when he received a copy of the case papers from Hampshire Constabulary pending the court hearing that he was alerted to the fact that the speed detection equipment had malfunctioned. Amongst the case papers was a print out of the photographic evidence generated by the SPECS 3 Average Speed Enforcement System which is Home Office Type Approved and uses automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) to time vehicles travelling between two cameras. The evidence went on to state "The time taken to travel and the distance travelled are accurately measured and are used to calculate the vehicle's average speed. The system is calibrated and operated in accordance with Home Office Type Approval".
Close scrutiny of the photographic evidence revealed that the ANPR system had photographed the registration plate of our client's vehicle entering the speed check. However, the registration plate photographed as exiting the speed check related to a different vehicle. The circumstances of the case are highly unusual but further investigation, with the assistance of our client's employer revealed that one of his fellow employees was driving a vehicle combination with similar livery bearing a registration plate which differed from our client's vehicle to the extent of only one digit. It would appear that the ANPR system had failed to recognise that our client's registration plate ended with a "D" but the registration plate used to confirm the end of the speed check ended with an "O".
The case was dealt with throughout by Barry Culshaw a Consultant with Blake Morgan specialising in road traffic matters. Barry formulated a detailed letter and wrote to Hampshire Constabulary advising of a not guilty plea. Full details where provided of the supporting evidence from the tachograph equipment. Evidence could also be produced from the recording equipment of our client's fellow employee. Within 7 days of receiving the representations a letter was received from Hampshire Constabulary confirming that the matter had been reviewed and enquiries made. As a consequence it was confirmed "that on this occasion, the court case will be withdrawn and no further action will be taken".
Barry Culshaw, commented "Despite extensive involvement in defending speeding allegations this is the first instance where I have been instructed by a client to challenge the accuracy of a speed reading produced by the SPECS system. Although the circumstances of the case were highly unusual it is worrying that a vocational driver with a clean driving licence was facing prosecution for a speeding offence where evidence was adduced by the prosecuting agency of grossly excessive speed and based on flawed evidence.
Our client was facing the risk of a substantial fine and endorsement of his driving licence with a significant number of penalty points or imposition of a discretionary disqualification. As a professional heavy goods vehicle driver this could have had serious implications for him. Had he not been proactive in trying to establish how the error occurred and had he not thereafter sought specialist legal advice the outcome of the case somewhat worryingly could have been very different".