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You can't trust the safety camera partnership in Somerset

Our editor writes ...

This incident occurred in June 2012 when I was returning from a holiday in Devon. I was apparently caught by a speed camera on the A303 at Horton Cross in Somerset but didn't receive the Notice of Intended Prosecution until two weeks later. After such a delay, it's difficult to recall the time or the place so I resorted to Google Earth to find the location.

I then wrote to asking for the specific placement of the vehicle containing the camera as the NIP accused me of doing 71mph in a 60mph zone while approaching a roundabout. I also asked them to tell me the distance I was allegedly doing 71mph.

A woman by the name of Mrs S Cross gave me the information about the location of the camera car and the distance I was first photographed but she did not say what distance I had travelled at 71mph. I then asked for pictorial evidence of the alleged offence and she supplied a photograph of the camera car (pictured left) and two images of my car that would be used in evidence. She also refused to enter into any further correspondence and totally ignored my request for the name of a police officer who was responsible for speeding offences.

I later discovered the police have no part in this venture which is run as a profit-making business acting on behalf of the Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset Constabulary and, presumably, sharing some of its profits with him. This particular Chief Constable (now retired) had already been accused of corruption by a Member of Parliament and had responded by hiring the most expensive litigation lawyers, Carter Ruck, to sue for libel on his behalf, naturally paying their huge fees from taxpayer funds. He later quit the force when the new Crime Commissioner was appointed. Presumably, she had marked his card.

Turning to the incident itself and having been back to the scene of the infringement to take my own photographs I was able to recall that I had been travelling for some miles behind a car that was being driven very slowly and was causing a huge tailback. When the opportunity arose and the road was clear of oncoming traffic I started to overtake but the driver of the slow car started accelerating as I got level with him. I put my foot down hard and managed to get ahead of him just as the road started curving to the right. Police Evidence The point at which I went round the bend was the same point that the camera car operator took my picture. If you click the thumbnail image you will see it shows the speed as 71MPH and the distance as 508 metres from the camera. The manufacturer's accuracy specification for the camera in question is from 2 metres to 500 metres max so this image was not legal as it was outside the established range for pictorial evidence. And a camera operator has to have reasonable suspicion that a vehicle is speeding. With only a one second time lapse from me clearing the bend and him taking the first photograph I submit he had no time to visually judge my speed. I believe this was a setup.

The second image was taken eight seconds later but it was not possible to know at what distance or at what speed I was then travelling because those two pieces of information had been deliberately redacted from the photograph - click the image on the left to see the proof.

I hate it when the police, or their agencies, attempt to doctor evidence to secure a conviction but, as we know, they do it all the time. Unfortunately, there are too many corrupt people involved in these organisations and, in the case of this camera partnership and others like it, profits have to be made. And who better to reap easy money from than the motorist.

I sent emails to Mrs Cross telling her the evidence had been fabricated but she refused to take up the challenge. I had also spotted that they had summoned me using legislation which actually expired in November 1978 - 34 years before my alleged speeding offence!

The outcome? I didn't want to spoil a clean licence with the 3 points I would get if I paid the 60 fine so I originally planned to defend the case in court. However, the risk of taking such a matter to court is that magistrates will rarely accept that police are liars and are usually not interested in seeing proof that police evidence has been fabricated. If I lost my case I could end up with a fine of up to 1,000 and 6 points on my licence.

So I took the easy, but expensive, option and went on a Speed Awareness course which meant I did not get any points. Largely a waste of time as I am a very experienced driver with a road safety background. Expensive? Yes, because I had to travel from London to Bristol for the course, stay overnight, and then travel back again.

I hope the Speed Enforcement Unit of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary read this because they are a bunch of crooks who will use any dirty trick to secure a conviction. I often wonder if the man who deliberately accelerated as I overtook him was part of the team. His actions were certainly very suspicious.

I also hope my experience acts as a warning for others. But if you have been caught in the same trap, please let me know.

"Many men stumble across the truth ... but most manage to pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened."

Winston S Churchill

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