Have you ever received a speeding notice and questioned its accuracy? Did you doubt the evidence presented to you, and feel sure that you had not broken the speed limit on the day in question? Well, any doubts you may have had may actually have been justified, if the experience of Leicestershire driver, Thomas Baird, is anything to go by. The moral of the story, it seems, is don’t take evidence at face value: get legal advice and challenge the evidence if you feel it is inaccurate.
So what actually happened? Well, delivery driver, Thomas Baird, was travelling at 29 miles per hour in a 30mph zone, when he was clocked by a speed camera reaching a speed of 85mph. He was unaware that he had committed any offence, so was surprised when he received a court summons accusing him of speeding in the 30 mph zone in Talke, Staffs. His lawyers naturally questioned the accuracy of the camera.
Mr Baird’s Ford van was snapped ‘doing 85mph’ at 11.59am on December 1. The driver, who lives in Leicester, received a Notice of Intended Prosecution and immediately contested the matter with the police’s safer roads team. But he was told he would have to wait for the case to go to court and was issued with a court summons in March.
After being made aware of the error, Staffordshire Police later withdrew the prosecution and paid out £2,000 to cover the driver’s legal costs. However, concerns have also been raised over the reliability of that specific Gatso camera, and lawyers are now questioning whether other drivers have also been wrongly prosecuted. Almost 14,000 drivers were issued with court proceedings in the past year after being caught speeding by cameras, and 568 other drivers were caught ‘speeding’ by the same traffic camera between October, 2014 and the end of September, 2015.
Speaking about the case, Bobby Bell, director of BB Law, the firm which represented Mr Baird, said:
“Gatso cameras take two photos which are 0.5 seconds apart. We calculated the true speed of the vehicle by making an application to Staffordshire Police for a copy of the second photograph.”
“Once the police disclosed this, we were able to calculate the speed by reference to the physical markings on the carriageway, proving he had been travelling at a maximum of 29.08mph.”
“If the suggested reading had not been so high Mr Baird probably would have just paid the fine. There aren’t many people who can spend the time, effort and money fighting something they think the police are likely to win.”
“The most concerning fact about this case is that the police apparently still have no idea as to how or why this device managed to over-calculate my client’s speed by a whopping 56mph.”
“This case undermines confidence in this camera and possibly even the reliability of this model of camera. The police should switch it off until they can provide an explanation for the error.”
“They should test the reliability of this camera and get to the bottom of why it has produced [such] an inaccurate reading, so they can determine whether this is a one-off or a wider problem.”
The Police have since acknowledged that speed cameras can give inaccurate readings. Any errors or discrepancies they claim are usually identified early on as office staff thoroughly check each case by comparing the two photos taken by the device. However, in this case Staffordshire Police accepted that staff repeatedly failed to pick up the error.
Speaking about the case, Superintendent Simon Tweats said:
“This is the only time this type of error, to the best of our knowledge, has not been picked up prior to going to court. This was a one-off individual error.”
However, Mr Bell expressed doubts about the truth of such a statement, adding:
“This case is a stark reminder that these supposedly infallible devices can produce inaccurate and unreliable evidence.”