Speeding case highlights risks of online advice

08/02/2013

Prosecutors and a road safety group say a routine speeding case in North Wales highlights the need for motorists to be wary of some online information sources.

A man was summonsed for an offence of driving in excess of the 30 mph speed limit on the B5129 at Sandycroft, Deeside in April 2012. The speed detection device was a Home Office-approved Gatsometer.

The defendant denied the offence, citing a variety of issues including defective signage and lighting, as well as claims that no valid traffic order was in place.

Justin Espie, Associate Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, Wales, said: "When material was supplied to the defendant answering his queries, his defence changed to one claiming that radio signals at the location were interfering with the Gatsometer device. He was invited to review the Gatsometer photos and conduct his own speed, distance and time calculations to confirm the speeding reading was correct."

As the case progressed, prosecutors, legal advisors and a district judge were all pro-active in case management. The defendant was advised that, whilst it was his right to challenge the evidence, the costs of countering all his claims were mounting and should he be convicted, he would be liable to a substantial fee in addition to any fine.

Steven Callaghan of Road Safety Support, a specialist unit set up to advise police and local authorities in motoring offence cases, attended the site and conducted testing. His report concluded that the reading from the device was accurate and there was no radio interference affecting the signal. Mr Callaghan commented: "The site had the lowest radio field strength at a speed camera that I have ever measured."

The defendant emailed the court just before his trial date, indicating he wished to change his plea to one of guilty. He was sentenced to a Fine of £60, had his license endorsed with four penalty points and was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1000 and a victim surcharge.

After sentencing, Associate Prosecutor Justin Espie, said: "This was a straight forward speeding case at a well established site. Had the defendant accepted the evidence at the outset he could have received a fixed penalty or even an offer of a speed awareness course, avoiding the imposition of penalty points altogether.

"Instead, after nine months with multiple court hearings, volumes of correspondence and challenges to every aspect of the case, he ultimately changed his plea to guilty at the last minute and now finds himself paying well over a thousand pounds.

"This case highlights the risks of taking advice from internet sources which may have little or no legal basis. I feel a degree of sympathy for people who take such advice and act upon it, only to find themselves paying huge fines and costs.

"Before embarking on this approach, people really need to carefully consider that the law is well established. Speed detection devices are rigorously tested and there are few acquittals at trial. Whilst no one is happy to receive a notice, to challenge one is a high risk and high consequence strategy."