M6/M42 Variable Speed Limit Signage – Applications to Re-Open Declined

For those of you who have followed our blog over recent months, you will be aware that on behalf of motorists we had sought to challenge convictions imposed by Leamington Spa Magistrates Court for speeding offences detected by the “variable speed limit” cameras operated along the M6 Toll and M42 motorway and junctions 7-9, on dates prior to 27th November 2012.

This challenge related to the legality of the AMI signage (Advanced Motorway Indicators)  which were used to indicate the speed limit in force along this stretch of the motorway. This signage was used to enforce “variable speed limits” of 40, 50 and 60 miles per hour. In early November 2012, it came to our attention that the AMI’s were unlawful, as they were not prescribed (the shape and font of the signage was incorrect) and were not authorised by the Secretary of State. This meant that there was a clear legal argument that no motorist detected of speeding above the variable speed limits (40, 50 and 60) should have been convicted, as they had not been given “adequate guidance” (as required by Section 85(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) of the speed limit being applied.

As a result of this issue with the signage. the Crown Prosecution Service made the decision to withdraw or discontinue (drop) all on-going prosecutions affected by this issue and the Highways Agency corrected the error when on 27th November 2013, they secured authorisation for the signage from the Secretary of State.

This however, left the question remaining as to what should happen to all of those motorists who had accepted their convictions for speeding prior to 27th November 2012, who had pleaded guilty, accepted fines and penalty points and in some cases had been disqualified from driving.

In taking up this cause, Caddick Davies Solicitors, was involved in a “test case” involving 15 defendants before Leamington Spa Magistrates Court on 26th July 2013, when the court considered whether there were grounds for re-opening the cases of convicted motorists in order that they could challenge their convictions and sentences.  At the hearing of this case arguments were received by the court on behalf of these motorists that there existed a lawful authority to re-open these cases and that it was in the “interests of justice” to do so. These arguments were 0pposed by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Upon giving its decision, District Judge Zara, who presided agreed that the court did have lawful authority to re-open these cases, but unfortunately decided that it was not in the interests to do so based upon a “technical argument”.

The result of this decision is that motorists will no not be able to re-open speeding convictions before the Magistrates Court on these grounds (illegality of signage prior to 27th November 2012), as Leamington Spa Magistrates has indicated that for means of consistency the rationale of this judgement will be followed in other cases, albeit that this does not prevent persons affected from making applications as each case must be considered on its merits.

Whilst this outcome is clearly a disappointing one we hope that we have served motorists well in seeking to challenge the prosecution and police on the fairness of their actions and will continue to do so, to ensure that motorists who are innocent are acquitted and that motorists who are guilty are treated fairly.

Neil Davies, Principal Solicitor

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