Richard Keedwell passionately denies he was driving 35mph in a 30mph zone on a day trip to Worcester in 2016.
Instead of paying the £100 fine and taking the three points on his licence on the chin, the 71-year-old was determined to fight his case in court. He feels there’s a “great con” going on with speeding fines.
However, he never dreamed it would end up costing him so much. He claims a “seriously flawed” legal system has resulted in him spending £30,000 of his savings in his battle for “justice” – only for it to fail.
The retired engineer, from Yate near Bristol, recruited the help of a video and electronics expert who argued in court that his prosecution was potentially based on a false reading.
Richard said it took four trips to Worcester Magistrates’ Court before his appeal was heard. After losing the case, he lost a further crown court appeal in August.
Mounting costs over three years
“I know I wasn’t doing 30 mph because I’m someone who is quite obsessed with fuel economy and I drive no more than the speed limits to get the most miles per gallon that I can,” he said. “So I was very surprised when I got the NIP [Notice of Intended Prosecution].
“Most people would open it and think damn, and just pay the fine. I’m sick of the injustices happening with our Government and police and ordinary people being ripped off. I thought, I’m going to challenge this.”
Richard said he expected the case would be “fairly quick” but it went on for three years and the expense mounted up – including £21,000 in barristers’ fees and £7,000 in court costs, as well as travel expenses. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the case involved a “multiplicity of issues” which added to its length.
He said the case had proved “very stressful”.
“I never imagined it would cost this much and I regret the amount I’ve spent,” he said. “The family aren’t happy about it.”
Richard said he had been inspired to fight the cause by the 2006 case of delivery driver Thomas Baird who won his case after a speed camera registered him doing 85mph in a 30mph zone. Like in Richard’s situation, he had been clocked by a device called a Gatso, one of the most common ones with square yellow boxes.
Thomas’ lawyer proved he was actually only travelling 29mph and the prosecution was dropped and he was paid £2,000 to cover his legal costs.
Bobby Bell, director of BB Law, which represented the Leicester resident, said his client would probably not have contested the fine if the reading had not been so high. “This case is a stark reminder that these supposedly infallible devices can produce inaccurate and unreliable evidence,” he said.
How the speed camera could have been inaccurate
It’s a technical, theoretical possibility that radar from the Gatso hits one vehicle and then bounces off another vehicle or surface it can be returned to the device and cause an erroneous speed reading
Video and speed camera expert Tim Farrow
Superintendent Simon from Staffordshire Police at the time of Thomas’ story tweeted that it “was a one-off individual error”. But some expert beg to differ.
A Gatso uses radar technology to trigger the camera to take two photos in quick succession. Video and speed camera expert Tim Farrow told the court in Richard’s case that the speed camera may have been triggered by a car in an adjacent lane.
“It’s a technical, theoretical possibility – I stress the word possibility – that radar from the Gatso hits one vehicle and then bounces off another vehicle or surface it can be returned to the device and cause an erroneous speed reading. It’s called the Double doppler effect which is a known phenomenon.
“The beam could not and did not come directly from Richard’s vehicle in my opinion. This is because his vehicle was well within the radar when the first picture was taken – a fact not disputed by the prosecution – and the photograph is triggered when the vehicle exits the radar beam.
“Therefore the beam must have bounced off another vehicle in the next lane to Richard’s car – which both myself and the prosecution accept was not speeding – when it left the radar beam which triggered the picture being taken.”
The photos also a vehicles position relative to the white calibration lines painted onto the road surface – this is the prosecution’s secondary evidence and enable the accuracy of the camera to be determine.
“I have measured many ladder lines and they are not always accurate, the worst I’ve seen was 1.79m when it was meant to be 2m. When you’re only talking about someone allegedly going over the speed limit by a few miles per hour then this inaccuracy matters. In Richard’s case the original lines were gone due to road works.”.
Calls for threshold to be scrapped
Most police forces have a tolerance of 10 per cent plus 2mph above the limit before a speed camera ‘flashes’. So on a 30 mph road, a camera wouldn’t normally activate unless a car drove past at 35mph or above. Auto Express warn motorists that car speedometer inaccuracies make it difficult to measure how close to the threshold they are travelling.
However, last year, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on road policing, Anthony Bangham – who is also chief constable of West Mercia Police which prosecuted Richard – called for the 10 per cent buffer to be scrapped. He also said speed awareness courses were being overused, and believes offenders should get fines and points on their licence instead.
Richard and Tim believe any such move would be deeply unfair given the potential problems with speed camera inaccuracies.
A spokesperson for West Mercia Police’s Safer Roads Partnership team said: “All of our speed enforcement cameras are calibrated regularly and are Home Office approved. This particular offence was dealt with by the Courts, who after hearing all the evidence found the defendant guilty.”
Landmark court case showing mobile speed cameras can lie
In 2007, Dave Lyall’s case made legal history. He went to court after he was accused of doing 59 mph in a 50 zone and showed the speed camera had got it wrong.
The Swindon resident was found not guilty, the first time a court had upheld doubts about the reliability of mobile speed guns.
The BBC reported laser expert Dr Michael Clark explaining a problem called ‘slip effect’. He explained that if the gun’s distance measurements start at the back of a vehicle and finish at the front, this could add up to 30 mph to the recorded speed.
Tim Farrow stresses that this ‘slip effect’ relates to laser cameras, which are different to the radar beam device in Richard’s case.
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