If you are stopped for speeding the police have three options. They can either:
- let you off if it's a minor infringement;
- Give you a fixed penalty notice and three points on your licence;
- If the offence was considered grave enough you could be summoned before the magistrates.
If the police issue a fixed penalty notice and the recipient chooses not to comply with it, the Court will issue a summons and the matter goes to court. Alternatively, if the motorist decided to contest the charge, it would, again, have to go to a magistrate's hearing.
UK speeding laws have been revised and there are stiffer penalties. Those who face prosecution will want to know if there are ways in which the charges they face can be challenged and if mitigating circumstances can help reduce the severity of penalties they face.
The Law’s the Law
There is a lot of inaccurate advice on line that promises loopholes and manipulations that can reduce penalties or even have dismissed speeding charges. The fact is there are very few circumstances under which speeding charges can be successfully challenged or dismissed. But there are some things that may help reduce penalties.
Is there any hope?
To understand why beating a speeding charge is unusual and difficult it’s necessary to understand the law. Doing so will help to identify whether there are any real grounds for challenging a charge.
How people get caught
Some motorists are caught by police officers in cars or on motorcycles who follow them. Sometimes the speed can be recorded on a camera or other device, and sometimes not.
More often than not, though, they go through a static, fixed speed camera that photographs them and uses radar and other technology to show they are speeding, or they pass a police officer using a radar or laser device to measure their speed which is found to be over the limit.
The law does not allow prosecution simply because a police officer thinks someone is speeding. If charges are brought it therefore means there is solid supporting evidence. However it has long been held that the testimony of a single police officer, who has checked the defendant's speed with his or her own speedometer (even without corroborating evidence from a camera or another police officer) is sufficient for a prosecution to succeed.
What follows is an examination of some of the ways that motorists, who are being prosecuted, have challenged prosecution in the past.
Speeding is an absolute offence - in other words, the motorist is guilty if the limit has been breached. However, medical and other emergencies may be considered to be extenuating circumstances, justifying a lesser penalty. Expert testimony is always helpful in a case like this.
What defence can there be against speed cameras and other detection devices? The simple answer is pretty much none, unless it can be proved that the device used to measure speed was faulty. The device may be a permanent or other type of camera, or a device operated by a police officer, or one or both operated from a mobile speed trap.
Not surprisingly the devices used are regularly tested to ensure proper calibration and accuracy. These devices very rarely malfunction and faults are usually identified very quickly.
Because failed prosecution due to technical problems and inaccuracies would be costly and bad publicity, the Home Office are involved in overseeing the administration of technical testing and evaluation of equipment used for measuring vehicle speed. The chances of inaccuracy or malfunction are therefore very slight.
Devices used for speed detection are governed by the Association of Chief Police Officers Code of Practice (for operational use of enforcement equipment) relevant to such devices. They need to meet with Home Office Approval as laid down in very detailed terms. If it can be proved by the defence that the device in question wasn’t used according to this Code of Practice, or doesn’t meet Home Office Approval, the case may not be proved. It’s up to the prosecution to prove that the device was used appropriately, but anyone raising doubt as to the appropriateness of the use of the device or its accuracy will need to have very solid grounds for doing so.
The camera wasn’t signed
This is no defence. There is no legal requirement for speed cameras or devices, either static or mobile, to be signed. Whether they are or not is a matter for each individual police force in a given area and their procedures and guidance, which is not the same as law.
Someone else was driving
This does sometimes happen. A car is borrowed or driven by someone other than the regular keeper when the speeding offence was committed. The registered keeper gets the notification of the offence and is liable to prosecution. Some cameras take a picture of the driver, which settles the matter; others don’t, and if the registered keeper who is being prosecuted can prove they were not driving at the time of the offence, they will not be prosecuted.
If the registered keeper is not responsible for the speeding offence, they will need to be clear on who is. Failure to co-operate could be deemed as attempting to pervert the course of justice and result in prosecution for a much more serious offence that carries a prison sentence.
Notice of the offence wasn’t given in the required timescale
There is a myth that if notice of prosecution isn’t given within 14 days of the offence it cannot be pursued. Wrong. It is up to the defendant to prove that the Notice of Intended Prosecution was not delivered within the 14 days timescale during the hearing. The case will still go to Court.
Is there anything that can get penalties and sentences reduced?
Yes, there are a number of things that can result in a reduced penalty or sentence. These are at the discretion of the Courts who must consider a number of factors before deciding on the penalty and sentence. These are largely prescribed and set out in Court guidance (by the Sentencing Council). The Court must first decide upon the level of the offence before sentencing. There are factors that must then be considered and which may result in a reduction of penalties/sentence, for example:
- the defendant has no previous or relevant convictions
- is of exemplary conduct or good character
- was involved in a genuine emergency at the time of the offence
- pleaded guilty without causing difficulties
- gave assistance to the prosecution.
Speeding is speeding. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the offender will be prosecuted, and sentence passed, UNLESS the following can be established:
- the person being prosecuted can prove they weren’t driving
- the equipment used to measure the speed was faulty or not used in accordance with relevant guidance
- an officer operating the equipment did not do so in accordance with guidance.
- The speed limit was incorrectly applied or not notified correctly
There have been cases in which defendants have been aquitted because the speeds limit signs were obscured not of the correct size, or fell outside the legal specification in some other way; or the correct procedure had not been followed in putting a limit on that particular stretch of road. These are matters in which local knowledge is invaluable and a local solicitor who specialises in this type of work may be able to help.
However, any attempt to trick or distort matters such as claiming someone else was driving when they were not is a serious criminal offence and should obviously be avoided.