Motoring lawyer Jeanette Miller says that escaping a speeding conviction through a legal loophole is not as easy as the press makes it sound.
If you’re facing a prosecution for speeding, there are a host of regulations and procedures that must have been followed for a conviction to stick.
But that doesn’t mean that getting off on a technicality or through a loophole in the law is simple.
While there are many valid and lawful challenges to most speeding cases, minor police errors, such as an inverted number plate on a Notice of Intended Prosecution, probably won’t be enough on their own to successfully defend a speeding allegation.
A further issue is that the courts are taking an increasingly dim view of defence strategies based on loopholes such as this.
When my team and I are preparing defences, these are the factors we look at.
1: What kind of road did the alleged offence take place on?
We need to know this because a higher burden of proof applies to allegations of speeding that take place on non-motorway roads.
If the police say you were speeding on a motorway, then all that is necessary to secure your conviction is one officer’s evidence of their opinion of your speed.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) must still persuade the court that the officer’s opinion of your speed is accurate, but there is no need for any corroboration of that opinion from a second police officer or from a speed detection device. So, for this reason, motorway speeding cases can be trickier for us to defend.
If the allegation took place on a non-motorway such as an A road then the legislation affords the motorist with more protection: an officer’s opinion of your speed will be insufficient on its own to secure your conviction.
This is where the majority of loophole defences come into play. Where corroboration evidence (see below) is challenged successfully, even if PC Plod swears blind that you were driving like a “bat out of hell”, the driver should be found not guilty if the letter of the law is applied.
2: What is the corroboration evidence?
These days with dwindling police numbers, the corroboration evidence will most likely be some form of equipment such as a speed detection device or a speed camera.
There are more than 40 speed detection devices currently in use in the UK. Each device has undergone rigorous testing to meet Home Office requirements known as “type approval”, and solicitors often insist on the type approval being proved in court.
More common challenges tend to relate to the way in which a speed detection device has been operated or calibrated. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) sets out guidelines that are mandatory for the police to follow for each type of device and these can often come into play in a speeding defence.
3: Was the driver speeding?
It may seem an obvious question to ask but even if a driver admits to us that he was travelling at a speed that is well above the limit, it is still possible and perfectly lawful for us to defend them.
As solicitors, we have a number of duties to act in our clients’ best interests but we must never do anything to mislead the court. In other words, we can’t lie or allow a client who admits he was speeding to give evidence to say he was not.
However, our professional obligations do not prevent us from insisting the CPS prove their case in court against our client. This enables us to lawfully defend a motorist who was actually speeding.
There are lots of ingredients for a successful speeding defence such as issues about signage, proof of speed restrictions in place, and identity to name but a few.
But best line of defence is usually that the client was truly innocent and is prepared to give evidence to that effect rather than avoiding conviction due to a technicality.
Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director at motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors.
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