A disturbing case was reported, in the TV news today, of a young motorist who was accused of speeding at 98mph in a 14-year-old Honda Civic. The alleged offence was recorded on a speed camera but the motorist knew that he was not guilty and decided to fight the case, claiming that his car was incapable of reaching 98mph.
The pictures recorded by the camera were shown during the news bulletin and while the Honda was in the picture there was also an error message in view.
When the motorist told the magistrate that his car was incapable of 98mph, the magistrate told him to prove it. So he took the car to a performance testing centre (normally used by much more exotic machinery) where the maximum speed was found to be somewhere in the mid-80s. Whereupon the charge against him was dropped but the police then decided that they wanted to charge him with speeding at 80mph but this came to nothing.
Perhaps this post illustrates my ignorance of the law, in which case I will be happy to receive comments from anyone who can bring me up-to-date. Otherwise I conclude that there are several disturbing questions arising from this case.
First, why was this case brought at all when it was clear that the camera was in some sort of error state at the critical time? And having dug themselves into this hole, why did the police later want to charge him with 80mph speeding – again with no usable evidence?
Secondly, why didn’t the police or prosecutor have the common sense just to check a few basic facts – like whether a 14-year-old Honda Civic COULD reach 98mph without rather obvious under-bonnet modifications, and whether such modifications were present in this instance.
Thirdly, aren’t we innocent until proved guilty under English law? If so, surely the magistrate was wrong to ask the owner to prove his assertion that his car was incapabloe of 98mph. Instead, the onus was on the prosecutor to prove that it was capable at the time in question.
When this news item ended I found myself wondering who paid this motorist’s expenses and legal costs and whether the magistrate, police and prosecutor involved will be called to account for their mishandling of this case.