Q I was travelling along an unfamiliar road, which I believed was a 30mph limit, but have received a speeding ticket to say that I was travelling at 32mph in a 20mph zone. When I revisited the site, I have found that the 20mph signs are obscured by bushes and so it is difficult to see the new limit. In addition, the 20 that is painted on the road is very poor and broken up and so I didn’t notice that the speed limit had decreased to 30mph. I didn’t think to take a photo at the time to prove this, but my husband said that I should go back and take some as evidence. By the time I was able to get back ñ a week had passed because I wasn’t well ñ the bushes have been cut back and the signs are visible. I could just take the fixed penalty ticket, but I don’t think it is fair, and so I want to fight it in court. What is the likelihood of me being successful?
A A successful defence will depend on the degree to which the signage was hidden or inadequate, and the extent to which you can prove this. In an appeal case in 1979, a ëStopí sign painted on the road was not fully visible, but the Appeal Court directed the magistrates to convict for failure to comply with the sign. The Court said that it was not a case of an initial and continuous failure to comply with the regulations governing road markings, because the markings had been in order at one time and were still partially visible.
If the 20mph signs could not be seen at all and the road markings so badly broken up that you could not have been aware of the speed limit, then you have a reasonable chance of an acquittal. It is also possible that you could be technically convicted of speeding, but that the court might find ëspecial reasonsí not to endorse your licence with penalty points because of the poor state of the signage.
This is all well and good theoretically, but you need to prove that the signage was in a poor state at the time that the offence occurred. You do not have to prove this beyond reasonable doubt, just on a balance of probabilities ñ that it is more likely than not that the signage was as you have described it in Court. There are several things you could do to try to obtain the evidence. Are there speed cameras in the vicinity? If so, ask the police to see the footage and make this request in writing by reference to your case, so that if they refuse, then the Court might give you the benefit of the doubt.
Contact the Council to ask for records of work done at the time to cut back the bushes. You do not say that the road markings were repainted, so take photos of the poor state of them, which may show that you could not detect the speed limit from the condition that they were in. Was anyone travelling with you at the time? If so, can they give evidence about the condition of the signage? It is possible that your sheer persistence in resisting the charge, backed up by the evidence that you gather, could cause the prosecution to drop the case.
Designed by solicitors, tested by barristers and available around the clock, Road Traffic Representation is an online legal system that allows people accused of a motoring offence to get free advice on how the law will be applied in their case, and referral to a telephone helpline and representation by a barrister in court if required. Practising solicitor Martin Langan spent two years designing the system and creating the data repository which allows the software to analyse road traffic offences with the same authority as a solicitor.