Speeding drivers lose appeal to human rights court
James Sturcke and agencies
Friday June 29, 2007
Two British drivers today lost their right-to-silence appeal to the European court of human rights over speed camera convictions.
Judges in Strasbourg decided by 15 to two that Idris Francis from Petersfield, Hampshire, and Gerard O'Halloran from London did not have their human rights breached by being forced to reveal who was driving their speeding cars. The judges concluded that vehicle owners "accepted certain responsibilities and obligations" that included helping identify the driver after a suspected road offence.
Both men were convicted of speed camera offences, with Mr Francis refusing on grounds of the right to silence to say whether he was behind the wheel. His 1938 Alvis was photographed doing 47mph in a 30mph zone. He was fined and incurred three penalty points.
Mr O'Halloran's car was photographed doing 69mph on the M11 where a temporary speed restriction of 40mph was in force.
He admitted to being the driver but later invoked his right to silence and protection from self-incrimination. Magistrates refused to exclude his confession and fined him, putting three penalty points on his licence.
Judges in Strasbourg, who heard the cases of the two men last September, today handed down a ruling that rejected the motorists' claim of an "absolute" right to remain silent and not give self-incriminating information.
The judges acknowledged that both men had faced direct compulsion to provide information, but went on: "The court also noted that anyone who chose to own or drive a car knew that they subjected themselves to a regulatory regime imposed because the possession and use of cars was recognised to have the potential to cause grave injury.
"Those who choose to keep and drive cars could be taken to have accepted certain responsibilities and obligations as part of the regulatory regime relating to motor vehicles, and in the legal framework of the United Kingdom those responsibilities included the obligation, in the event of suspected commission of road traffic offences, to inform the authorities of the identity of the driver on that occasion."
The judges pointed out that UK law made clear there was no offence committed if the vehicle owner could prove he or she did not know and could not be expected to know who was driving the vehicle at the time of a particular alleged offence.
Mr Francis said today: "The fight for freedom goes on. We can't allow the tyrants who are taking away our rights to succeed. They have to be stopped."
Brigitte Chaudhry, founder of RoadPeace, a charity for road traffic victims, said the judgment would restore confidence in the legal system for crash victims.
Judges rule on speeding fines
Friday June 29, 2007 4:43 AM
Human Rights Court judges are due to make a key ruling that could affect the future of speed cameras in the UK.
The judges in Strasbourg will decide if two British drivers had their human rights breached in speed camera conviction cases.
Last year, the judges heard Idris Francis, from Petersfield, Hampshire, and Londoner Gerard O'Halloran separately challenged police requirements to name the driver after their cars were caught on roadside cameras exceeding the speed limit.
Mr Francis, a retired company director, refused on grounds of the right to silence and was fined for failing to comply, with three penalty points put on his licence.
Mr O'Halloran, who is in his early 70s, did admit he was the driver but later invoked his right to silence and protection from self-incrimination.
Magistrates refused to exclude his confession. They fined him and put three penalty points on his licence.
Mr Francis's 1938 Alvis car was photographed doing 47mph in a 30mph zone, while Mr O'Halloran's car was caught on camera doing 69mph on the M11 motorway where a temporary speed restriction of 40mph was in force.
Both men turned to Strasbourg after British appeals failed. Their lawyers told the human rights hearing last September that they had both been convicted of speeding on the basis of statements they were compelled to provide under threat of a penalty similar to that of the alleged speeding offence.
They argued that this was contrary to the presumption of innocence and affected their right to a fair trial, both safeguarded by the Human Rights Convention to which the UK is a signatory.
Paul Smith, founder of anti-speed camera group Safe Speed, said: "This case is extremely important to road safety. If it kills off speed cameras - and I hope it will, at least for a while - it will be a great day for road safety and a great day for justice."
© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2007, All Rights Reserved.