Case File 16
Mr. T., LANCASHIRE
I have just won my case at Preston Magistrates court with thanks to the excellent people at PePiPoo. They were instrumental in helping me find the right solicitor and provided me with an enormous wealth of background support. They put me in touch with a number of others suffering from the same plight and without them I would not have taken the case as far as I did and WIN!
The case has cost me no less than £3000 in legal representation and lost income but it was worth every penny.
I pleaded guilty to 57 mph and offered to the court a special reasons argument. The case was heard in front of a District Judge and not a Magistrates panel - this was at the request of the CPS concerned about our previous technical challenges. The arguments put forward were in the form of video footage, still images and a legal case known as "Burgess and West". In simple terms we argued that by leaving one road layout (single carriageway in town) and joining a completely different road layout (dual carriageway - central reservation) I genuinely believed the speed limit to be higher than a 30 mph limit. Coupled to this I had headed out of town on a dual carriageway towards a fly-over single carriageway section where there was a "max speed 30 mph" advisory signpost for a sharp left bend. The Judge agreed that this advisory sign could mean that the speed limit prior to the single carriageway could be higher, up to 70 mph for a dual carriageway. In the case of Burgess and West, Mr West's driving license was not endorsed as he won by the absence of signs, however in my case I won due to the confusing nature of the signs that were present.
Hopefully the contents of the story will help others and give you an understanding of how these things are handled by the CPS, Police, Expert Witnesses and Solicitors.Honestly you just couldn't make this kind of stuff up!
On July 29th 2001 I was stopped by a police officer of Lancashire Constabulary and accused of speeding. The accused speed was 67 mph in a 30 mph limit and was measured using an LTI 20/20 laser gun. There was one police officer in attendance. It was a wonderfully sunny day and the officer had his shades on. We had a long discussion about various aspects of the laser gun and more notably my TVR. I asked the officer if he had calibrated the device and he told me "I have not done so yet but will do so later". He asked for my licence and I supplied it.
It hit home some time later the nature of the accused offence. It would be a potential ban since the officer told me that the speed limit was 30 mph. I was stunned, I never travel at that speed in a built up area. I therefore decided to question the tactics employed by the police and wrote a letter directly to the Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary. This got me no-where and I was told to expect a summons in due course.
The Summons - the first lawyer:
The summons arrived some months later and I started talking to a local lawyer. This lawyer had just successfully defended my colleague and so I felt it was as good as bet as any. We questioned the accuracy of the LTI 20/20 laser device and especially it's measurement of a car the shape of a TVR Tuscan. These questions went to the sole reseller and supplier of the device in the UK, namely Tele-traffic UK Limited. I was very surprised to receive a telephone call from the Managing Director responding to my letter. Unsurprisingly he told me the device worked perfectly with TVRs and was 100% full-proof. Not being put off with this answer we decided to raise a technical challenge and the correspondence began:
- Tetra Radio system used by Lancashire Police: the effects of the newly installed Tetra Radio systems in Lancashire on the LTI 20/20. At the same time local radio and newspaper were reporting that the force helicopter had been grounded and police motorbikes were recalled to receive attention to stop interference from the high frequency system. The CPS denied this on all accounts although the latest copy of the ACPO guidelines now advises that handheld Tetra/Airwaves devices must be operated within certain distances from speed enforcement equipment. Dead end or unanswered questions?
- Certificate of competence: We asked for a copy of one showing the officer was trained to the use the LTI 20/20, instead we got a Witness Statement from another police officer, not present at the scene, telling us that the device was used correctly in every way. Query never correctly responded to?
- Certificate of calibration: We ended up requesting two calibration certificates, one from the 14th March 2001 and one from 14th March 2002. We eventually got these and to my astonishment the Managing Director of Tele-Traffic UK Limited had completed them. Mmmmm?.. how very fishy!
- Daily calibration: When I asked the police officer at the time of the offence if he had calibrated the device he told me "no but I will do so later". He later wrote and signed a Witness Statement explaining that he had calibrated the device by means of a drive through police vehicle at a time when he was still talking to me! His word against mine - guess who would win in court?
The CPS gets uncomfortable:
Too much technical jargon forced the CPS to call in the "big guns" or perhaps play the trump card. A request was made for an Expert Witness to step forward and commission a report. The report was published and told us the police had used the equipment correctly and that I was speeding. Guess who wrote the report? - It was the Managing Director of Tele-traffic UK.
Challenge the challenger get 60 instead:
We decided to challenge the Expert Witness since he was not an impartial witness. My lawyer felt we didn't have a hope in hell of challenging the Expert (because he wins every time!) so a new tactic was required. A telephone call to the CPS some bluffing and a bit of plea-bargaining took place. The CPS agreed to reduce the charge to 60 mph provided I plead guilty. Pleading guilty meant that the Experts costs would not have to be met by either side (£2500).
We finally find an Expert:
We were almost ready to go to court when I discovered a chap who knows a lot about the science of using lasers to measure speed. A nice conversation with him and my lawyer and we were ready for a technical argument. A report was written by our newly found Expert and confirmed that I could have been travelling at no more than 37 mph, a 30 mph drop from the measured speed. We were ready for court.
Lets go to court - or maybe not - It's in Preston, no second thoughts it's in Blackpool - oh stuff it let's rearrange:
A pre-trial hearing was scheduled and on the day of it the court changed it's mind and moved it from Preston to Blackpool. On route to Blackpool I got told the case was to be rescheduled.
About time you hear a bit about the CPS's own Expert Witness:
Can you guess who it is yet? They bring in the Managing Director of Tele-traffic UK Limited who baffles the court with science. This is probably the best time to tell you about this so-called scientist - he's not one! However he is a salesman, has a law degree and is a former 35 years police officer. By all reckoning he's made millions of pounds reselling these laser guns to 97% of the police forces in the UK. He is in fact the approved Expert Witness for all courts in the land with respect to these devices. But he's not impartial. If you ever come up against him you will notice that the report he writes for your case is exactly the same as everybody else's - the joys of cut and paste to make a fast buck or two!
PePiPoo to the rescue:
I had been in contact with PePiPoo for some time now and all the ideas given to me were used and scrutinised by my so-called expert-in-the-field lawyer. I decided it was time to part company and go with a more experienced lawyer - once again PePiPoo proved invaluable and put me in touch with a great firm, Pryce Woodrow & Co.
2003 - The beginning of an new era, an introductory special offer 57 mph:
I was finally talking to someone who knew what I was going through and understood the process. As an "introductory offer" my new lawyer managed to talk the CPS into an offer of 57 mph. So we've now gone from 67 mph to 60 mph to 57 mph! The key point here is that this is not an automatic disqualification. We now have a court date scheduled for July 2003, that's two years from the original alleged offence date.