September 7, 2004 at 9:42 am #9038XV16Participant
A WELSH controversial speed camera campaign could be forced into a major U-turn if a legal challenge to the European Court of Human Rights is successful.
The appeal centres of a person’s right of silence and, under British law it is up to the prosecution to provide proof of guilt.
But now it is being argued that owners of vehicles caught by the ever-increasing number of cameras on Britain’s roads do not enjoy such a right and effectively have to prove their innocence.
Former Deeside man Norman John Hayes is to challenge the law on which the speed camera campaign, pioneered in the UK by North Wales chief constable Richard Brunstrom, is based.
Businessman Mr Hayes, at the time of Barmouth Close in Connah’s Quay but now of Irby, Wirral, was convicted of failing to provide information to the police about who was driving his Land Rover when it was caught doing 42mph in a 30mph speed limit on the B5129 at Kelsterton near Connah’s Quay, in December, 2001.
He said that he honestly did not know whether he or his wife was driving, stood trial at Flintshire magistrates in October, 2002, when he unsuccessfully argued that he had done everything possible to try to find out who was driving at the time.
He was fined £150 and three penalty points were put on his driving licence.
His appeal was dismissed, as was a further hearing at the divisional court, and now his lawyer Mike Gray is applying to the Council for Europe for consent to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Hayes said that he was required not only to provide a defence, but the burden of proof was placed on him instead of with the prosecution.
“In my case, the magistrates convicted me and when I appealed to the Crown Court they just said that they didn’t believe me, based on nothing,” he added.
“They just found me guilty and there was no listening to any other point of view. I was not trying to get away with a speeding fine. It simply is not fair.”
Mr Gray said, “What we are basically saying is that the present system is a breach of Article Six of European Convention on Human Rights – the right of silence and the right not to self-incriminate.”
When cameras catch a vehicle speeding, they are not immediately stopped. Police send out what are known as Section 172 notices to the registered keepers, requiring them to say who was driving the vehicle at the time.
If the information is not provided, the registered keeper is prosecuted for failing to provide the information.
There is a “due diligence” defence where vehicle owners can be cleared if they can prove that they have done everything reasonably possible to try and establish who the driver was.
“Laughably, it has been held that terrorists have the right of silence and not to incriminate themselves but motorists do not,” said Mr Gray.
“We have exhausted our domestic remedies and we are now appealing to the Council for Europe to hear this issue.”
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“The normally careful and competent actions of a reasonable individual should be considered legal”!
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