A serious challenge to the legality of most speeding convictions since the early 1990s is gaining momentum.
The issue concerns the process by which speed measuring devices that have come into use since July 1992 have been authorised. Since that date, the Secretary of State has no longer been empowered to approve the devices without laying a Statutory Instrument (SI) before both Houses of Parliament in each individual case. This has not been done, meaning that the evidence from these devices is not admissible in law. (1)
The ABD's traffic management adviser, Malcolm Heymer, explains, "This is not a trivial issue or an attempt to exploit a 'loophole'. The purpose of the requirement to lay a SI before Parliament is so that speed measuring devices are subject to proper scrutiny. Those authorised since 1992 include laser speed meters, some types of which have repeatedly caused concern that they can give false high readings. Had the proper procedure been followed, these devices might not have been authorised and drivers wrongly convicted."
The procedural error was discovered by Scottish community lawyer Robbie the Pict. The legal point has been argued in cases in Scotland (2) and barrister Michael Shrimpton convinced Nuneaton magistrates in June to throw out a speeding case because the laser speed meter used to provide evidence had not been properly approved. Shrimpton is also acting in a case put before Kingston magistrates (3) and there are more cases in hand in England, Scotland and Wales.
The legal point will ultimately be decided at Appeal. In the meantime, drivers who face prosecution for speeding may wish to request that their case is put on hold pending the outcome, or ask their solicitors to join forces with those involved in the existing cases. This would help force the pace and share the costs.
ABD chairman Brian Gregory remarks, "Once again we see the Government applying heavy-handed enforcement of the letter of the law while having a casual attitude to observing the law itself. If the eventual outcome is that millions of speeding convictions are found to have been unlawful, the cost of reimbursement will be massive, but it will only have itself to blame."