Thursday, 15 September 2011

Speed Cameras

Speed cameras are on the agenda for St Clement's Parish. I've been looking at the subject and making various notes, and thanks also to a friend who has experience as an Honorary Policeman, who supplied me with points (5) and (6):

1) In the absence of any naming of the driver, the law assumes the owner to be the driver. This has been the subject of various campaigns for liberty, some of which have reached the European court but have failed. In order to work, the law requires the owner to disclose the driver, or face a fine themselves. The Road Safety Act 2006 has an of offence of "failing to identify the driver"

Clearly there are complexities here, because if it is the case that the law deems the owner to be the driver unless a named driver is given, then if the owner clearly was not the driver (say was elsewhere, and had witnesses), and perhaps did not know which member of their family might have been driving, there is lots of fun for the lawyers (as I suspect the UK has seen). What is needed is statistics on people caught, and successful legal challengers, but that may be difficult, as the government may not be forthcoming, and the lawyers ant to play up their successes, not give general percentages which might be small.

One lawyer notes that: "Vehicle owners have no obligation to 'name the driver' if they do not know who the driver was at the time of the alleged offence and cannot discover the identity of the driver using reasonable diligence. It's crystal clear that speed cameras haven't made our roads safer." Drivers do have a legal defence if they can prove they genuinely do not recall who was at the wheel of the car when the alleged speeding offence took place.

But expect arguments if this comes to debate in Jersey about who should be responsible; in fact, expect a re-run of all the same arguments from the UK! In fact, if it is fines rather than penalty points, and the threat of disqualification, I wouldn't expect a huge amount of litigation. After all, who is going to pay a lawyer to get off a £50 or £100 fine!! One five minute telephone call would probably cost as much!

2) Cameras can cost a lot. The best cameras may cost around £120,000. . That's not cheap, and it would take a heck of a lot of fines to break even in Jersey, where while there may be speeding, there is not the sheer volume of cars that there is in the UK. I know we have a huge ratio of cars per population, but in the UK, you have cars driving across a hundred miles or so, so that the cars passing through a camera spot every day and caught would be much greater. So the idea that the camera can pay for itself may well be wishful thinking. Opponents will probably suggest the £120,000 model, and the States, with its well known record for thrift, will probably go for "the gold plated option"!

The Gatzo, on the other hand, costs between £20,000 to £40,000, and would be much more economical, a although to would still need 400 fines of £50 to break even, and that doesn't include training costs, people coming over from the UK. The Gatzo also has has several weaknesses where large vehicles with reflective surfaces.  Gatsos account for 85% of all speed cameras in use on UK roads. Serco, the manufacturer noted that " "We recognise that occasionally, an unusual combination of circumstances can trigger a false positive reading by the Gatso radar, triggering the camera's operation."

3) Cameras can be targeted by vandals - the Isle of Man originally just used one to record data, then changed its use to levy fines. It has been vandalised twice. Statistics on vandalised units in the UK should therefore be considered, and whether that is likely in Jersey - where we have just had 30 mph altered as a joke to 80 mph by some unknown pranksters.

4) Cameras can cause altered road behaviors. The AA has a list of all speed trap locations, and websites suggests the best way for motorists to avoid getting accidentally caught is to avoid those roads, which may lead to faster traffic on more minor roads. That could be an unexpected consequence of more danger to road users because of more use of "rat runs".

5)  Under Jersey law 'speeding' is in itself not an offence. Article 21(1) states " A person shall not drive a motor vehicle of any class or description on any road at a speed exceeding the speed specified in Schedule 2 as the  maximum speed in relation to a vehicle of that class or description." It then goes on to say under Article 21(5) A person prosecuted for driving a motor vehicle of any class or description on a road at a speed exceeding the speed limit imposed by or under this Article or any Order made under this Article in relation to a vehicle of that class or description shall not be liable to be convicted solely on the evidence of one witness to the effect that in the opinion of the witness the person prosecuted was driving the vehicle at a speed exceeding that limit". Therefore "Judges Rules' dictate we can only prosecute on the evidence that (a) the reporting officer's 'opinion' was that a vehicle was going to fast, corroborated by the evidence captured by HHR, Laser Gun or VASCAR. Even that is regularly challenged which is why most speed checks are conducted by two officers, not just one. For the 'evidence' of a camera to stand up, it would need an opinion in the first instance that a vehicle was 'speeding' before photographic evidence could be admissible. Can cameras form an opinion?

So before you could even legislate for introducing speed cameras as a prosecution tool you should need to completely re-write Art 21 (and probably other sections of the RT(J) L1956 too that rely upon similar 'Rules'.  However, all new laws are subject to test cases - and given our track-record in writing them (badly) I would expect the courts to be full-to-bursting with advocates trying to make a name for themselves.

6) You cannot fine foreign registered vehicles (by this method) as Jersey does not have agreements to connect to the databases in the country of registration that hold information about the car and/or its owner (or registered keeper); Nor if we did is it possible to prosecute outside of the island should it be claimed (by way of example) that "My father-in-law, who was on holiday with us, borrowed the vehicle but has since returned home." Fines cannot be legally pursued beyond the jurisdiction in which they are levied. Given the above, the residents of the island would be at considerable disadvantage and the sense of 'unfairness' become the bigger issue.


Anonymous said...

It's a sledgehammer to crack a nut - so in the usual Jersey Way it's a certainty to happen!

Alane Wallace said...

Just levy fines on the vehicle and don't worry about the driver. The registered owner of the car is always responsible. Let the family/friends/employers fight it out about who has to actually come up with the fine. That's the American (Land of Liberty) way with speed cameras.

Tom said...

When you get a still photo sent to you as 'proof' of your moving offense, be sure to take a photo of £50 or £100 and send that off as 'payment'.

Want another laugh? do a search for 'santa claus speed camera' on YouTube...

Tom said...

When you get a still photo sent to you as 'proof' of your moving offense, be sure to take a photo of £50 or £100 and send that off as 'payment'.

Want another laugh? do a search for 'santa claus speed camera' on YouTube...

Anonymous said...

This is good news.

First we'll all know where they are within minutes of them going up and then there will be no enforcement in the area so we only have to slow down in the 40 yards before the camera.

Plus they'll lower the cost of housing in the area so its good news for first time buyers.