London, 6 Mar 2002.
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Association of British Drivers Supports Right to Silence
Idris Francis, a member of the Association of British Drivers, recently initiated what may turn out to be a landmark piece of English litigation (SW Surrey 4163930), with the potential to restore to drivers a fundamental right never denied those suspected of far more serious crimes - including premeditated murder. Idris, as the registered keeper, recently received a notice of intended prosecution for a camera-detected excess speed offence.

At the outset, the Association wishes to make it abundantly clear that it does not condone the potentially lethal misuse of speed under inappropriate circumstances.

However, the problem nowadays is that excess speed, i.e., the act of exceeding an arbitrary limit; and inappropriate speed for the prevailing conditions (whether within or above the posted limit) have become synonymous in the official mind. The former is the archetypal victimless crime: a purely technical offence which has no road safety consequences; while the latter is potentially lethal and represents a crucial road user training and education issue which is currently left unaddressed.

Perhaps partly because this confusion exists even at the highest official levels, speed itself is seen as "bad", and every opportunity is being taken - via increasingly inappropriate, lowered limits - to reduce average vehicle speeds to as near walking pace as possible.

The most active proponents of this policy have no genuine interest in road safety, but view increasingly restrictive motoring legislation as a means of pursuing their own agendas.

Firstly there are those - best described as the Transport Taliban - who think individual mobility itself is anti-social. They want to return us to some kind of entirely localised, latterday feudal existence; and actually want lower speeds purely to make individual mobility more inconvenient and unpleasant.

A second group - let's call them the Enforcement Tycoons - welcomes high levels of non-compliance resulting from unrealistically lowered speed limits (where, in the vast majority of cases no speed-precipitated accident problems exist) as a way to raise enormous sums through automated speed enforcement operations. That those driven off the road - and possibly out of work - as a consequence will cost society far more than the revenue generated does not seem to burden these peoples' collective conscience.

Crucial to this group's financial objective is that drivers do not in large numbers contest speeding penalties, since the court system would rapidly grind to a halt.

The necessary low levels of resistance are achieved by the wilful misuse by the Police Service of the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NiP). Most people are dissuaded from defending their cases by this document, which denies recipients the right of silence enshrined in the 1951 European Convention of Human Rights.

Despite a landmark verdict in the Scottish High Court early last year confirming the right of silence, and two Birmingham cases that July, the authorities quite improperly continued to threaten recipients with penalties which had no basis in the law as it then stood.

The soundness of the reversal of these verdicts at Privy Council level in December 2000 has been called into considerable doubt by subsequent rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Idris Francis has taken the commendable step of contesting that Privy Council decision, and the issue has been referred to the ECHR at Strasbourg.

Mr. Francis' solicitors have notified the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) of this application and suggested that they reconsider the wording of NiP's against this context. It cannot be acceptable that drivers have fewer rights than those suspected of serious crimes such as murder, arson, rape, mugging or perjury.

We therefore strongly advise all those who have received - or are expecting to receive - NiP's as a result of automated speed enforcement operations to take the same course of action as Idris Francis and demand to be accorded the Right of Silence according to the 1951 Act.

A similar defence should if possible be brought in Scotland, where the law differs in detail from that applicable in the rest of the UK.

Full details of the issues, the Article 6 legal expenses Fighting Fund and how to contact Mr. Francis are available on the web site of the Association of British Drivers, or via the address http://www.righttosilence.org.uk. A premium rate Association of British Drivers' legal helpline also exists on 0906-906 0121*.

Recently we have seen the enforced instatement of high visibility "Bright" Gatsos (despite bitter - entirely financially motivated - opposition from certain local and police authorities).

Increasingly stringent guidelines as to how and where speed enforcement devices are used and sited are to be applied. Legal action described above is now in train to curb the excesses of the revenue-raising juggernaut that UK speed enforcement has become. All the above victories were inspired - and hard won by - the efforts of the ABD membership.

Chairman Brian Gregory commented:

"As the combination of these measures bites, it will become more and more difficult for those in power - who have been abusing the public trust - to misuse speed enforcement technology purely for revenue raising. Winning this case will encourage a redirection of such measures towards genuine situations where inappropriate speed causes death and injury - instead of them being geared towards maximum revenue-generation as at present."

The Association of British Drivers - committed to making stealth motoring taxation through the misrepresentation of environmental, transport and road safety issues as socially unacceptable as armed robbery.


 
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Notes for Editors