Peter Marrable was summonsed to court for speeding. The allegation was that he had driven at 72mph in a temporary 50mph zone.
The police produced evidence of the speed from a ‘Trucam’ device that was approved, calibrated and operating correctly.
Mr Marrable produced evidence from a GPS tracker that was fitted to his company vehicle. The tracker showed a speed of 53-54mph.
The magistrates had to decide if they were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Marrable had been speeding. They decided that the GPS tracker cast sufficient doubt as to the correct speed, so they did not convict him.
Is this a new defence to a speeding charge?
No, there is nothing new in driving offence law that is raised by this case.
In 1987 the case of Cracknell v Willis was heard. Cracknell was accused of driving while over the limit for alcohol. In the Magistrates’ Court, he wanted to produce evidence of the amount of alcohol he had consumed in order to show that the police intoximeter machine was defective. The Magistrates refused to allow him to produce the evidence and convicted him. Cracknell sought an opinion from the High Court.
The High Court considered the issue of how far, if at all, and by what evidence, a motorist was entitled to challenge the reliability of the machine.
The Magistrates had not heard any technical evidence to say the machine was not working correctly. They said that they were bound to follow the case of Hughes v McConnell and refused to allow Cracknell to give evidence of the alcohol he had consumed.
Hughes v McConnell
In Hughes v McConnell the Magistrates had acquitted the defendant of drink driving after he gave evidence that he had only drunk 3 cokes and 3 bitter shandies. The prosecution attacked that decision on the ground that the defence evidence was inadmissible to challenge the accuracy of the breath test. The Divisional Court held that the validity and accuracy of the machine could not be challenged by evidence of the amount of alcohol consumed. The effectiveness could only have been attacked was by way of direct evidence of imperfection.
Back in Cracknell’s case, the Court considered the evidence that could be given. The Court concluded that no machine is infallible and if a challenge was limited to direct evidence of malfunction, it would mean the machine was treated as being virtually infallible.
The Court provided the analogy of a teetotal bishop having dinner with two other bishops. He is stopped on the way home and provides a positive breath sample. The bishop should be allowed the opportunity to call the two bishops as witnesses to give evidence he had not consumed alcohol, and for the magistrates to draw the inference that the machine must be unreliable. They concluded that the decision in Hughes was wrong.
Can anyone just give evidence of their speed?
Technically yes, but you may not be believed.
The Court in Cracknell went on to say that evidence that could reasonably suggest the machine was unreliable was admissible. This did not mean that defendants could challenge a breach analysis by “spurious evidence of their consumption of alcohol”.
In 1982 in Kent v Stamps the defendant gave evidence that his lorry was not capable of reaching 40mph, as alleged, on the particular road. He was acquitted as the magistrates found there was a doubt. However, it was described as a very borderline case by the higher court.
When it comes to driving offences, the court will use its good sense to consider all of the evidence before it. The case of Marrable does not mean that any evidence from a GPS will always be accepted. It simply means that such evidence can be considered, as in the case of Cracknell.
If you are accused of speeding and know that you were not, get in touch. Your case is not as hopeless as some lawyers would have you believe.
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The idea of speed limits causes immense confusion, with many people believing that the speed limit is at least the minimum speed you should ordinarily drive at.
Most of us have experienced the rage of a motorist behind us if we adhere to the limit. A step below it to any degree can often cause outrage.
In reality, however, the safe speed is always linked to the conditions. We need to factor in lighting, road conditions, traffic etc., while keeping an eye on the overall speed limit.
But, just how strictly are those limits enforced?
Research published recently by Auto Express magazine showed that most police forces adopt a 10% +2 policy, so if the speed limit is 40 miles per hour (mph), there will be no fixed penalty or prosecution unless the speed exceeds 46 mph. Interestingly some police forces, including Greater Manchester and the West-Midlands among others, refused to confirm the margin. Lancashire Police and the Metropolitan Police stated that they adopt 10% +3. Essex said they operate no threshold, and several other forces refused to say anything about the issue.
Even where a margin of error is allowed for, this would not preclude a prosecution if the police wished to pursue one. So unless you are going to drive around with a current and comprehensive list of speed policies in your head, the safe course is to stick to the limit.
As well as exploring police policies to speed, the research also disclosed that car speedometers typically display a speed which is 1 or 2 mph above the actual speed of the vehicle. This again provides some welcome tolerance for those times when you might not be fully observing the applicable limit.
But speeding isn’t really a crime is it?
In criminal law terms, speeding is often seen at the bottom of the list when compared to other crimes. Despite the relative low penalties, those points can soon hit the magic 12. At that point, the risk of disqualification can become very real for many people. Even gaining 6 points can mean some new drivers forfeiting their licence. Speeding far in excess of the limit can result in instant disqualification. In some circumstances, you could end up being charged with a more serious offence such as dangerous driving.
When looking at the more serious offences, in particular causing death by careless or dangerous driving, we see that excess speed is often a feature highlighted by the prosecution. What starts as nothing other than a rush to get home can soon become an unintended tragedy for all concerned.
How we can assist
If you need specialist driving offences advice, then get in touch with John Howey on 020 7388 1658 and let us help. We deal with all manner of road traffic offences on a daily basis. Our team has the expertise to get you the best result possible.Read More