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A speed camera partnership which tried to bend the law to get a rider convicted has been forced to back down after MCN stepped in.
Essex Safety Camera Partnership sent MCN reader Steve Rouse a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) a full 54 days after his bike was photographed allegedly speeding. But the Road Traffic Offenders Act states NIPs are only valid if served within 14 days.
When Rouse pointed out the NIP was late, the partnership wrote to him again, claiming: "We are bound to send an NIP within 14 days of the alleged offence when the keeper's details are readily available to police via the Police National Computer. In this instance we were obliged to request details manually from the DVLA. In such cases we are not bound by the 14-day law."
The Road Traffic Offenders Act does set out circumstances in which camera partnerships are not bound by the 14-day law, but having to get a keeper's details from the DVLA isn't one of them.
One exception the Act does make is where the keeper's details could not "with reasonable diligence have been ascertained in time."
Essex Safety Camera Partnership claimed this was what allowed them exemption from the rule in this case, even though the letter to Rouse made no mention of the actual clause.
A spokeswoman said: "We follow the same process every time and we would use that as a defence in court if it came to a court case - that we had used due diligence by going through that process. If this gentleman wants to take this case to court, he's more than welcome to, and that would be the defence that we'd use."
Andrew Dalton, partner at bike solicitors White Dalton (www.whitedalton.co.uk) said the clause did not apply. He said: "Reasonable diligence means checking with the DVLA for the keeper's details. There's no duty on the rider to register with the Police National Computer - you can't do it. I can get keeper's details from the DVLA. I do it regularly, and it takes two to three days and costs £2.50. If I can do that, then with reasonable diligence they can too."
"It's disgusting. If it wasn't for MCN, I could have had a big problem"
We put Dalton on the case, and within hours he got results. He said: "Following two brief conversations with a police officer of Essex Safety Camera Partnership, it was confirmed to me in writing that no further action would be taken against Mr Rouse. The prosecution has been discontinued, but no apology or explanation was offered as to why this wrong-headed prosecution was ever commenced.
"It should never have got-this far, but the bull-headed attitude of so-called Safety Camera Partnerships means that unless ordinary bikers are prepared to call in their lawyers, the partnerships just press on.
"The officer could give no explanation as to why a misleading statement as to the law was given by one of his civilian colleagues."
When we first questioned Essex Safety Camera Partnership's spokeswoman, she said: "I can't answer any other questions in relation to this particular case unless I've got the details of it."
At that time we weren't in a position to give her Rouse's full details. When we went back to her to ask why the case against Rouse had been dropped, we were. But then, in possession of all the details she'd previously said she needed to make further comments, she said: "I am unable to release the details of individual cases."
Rouse, a 47-year-old Honda VFR400 rider from Averley, said: "I've had-a letter confirming it's, been dropped. They were just trying to have me over. It's disgusting. If it wasn't for MCN, I could have had a big problem with this. How many other people get late NIPS and don't question them?"
All the circumstances in which partnerships can issue NIPS late are in the Road Traffic Offenders Act. Download the document from our website: www.motorcyclenews.com
Copyright 2006 Motor Cycle News
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I was kept informed and the case was dealt with smoothly. Michal
w/c 14 June 2013
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