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Speed camera fight goes to Europe

BBC | September 27 2006

European judges are being asked to rule in a case that could limit the use of speed cameras in the UK.

Campaigners claim requiring car owners to reveal details of who was driving a vehicle caught speeding on camera is a breach of their right to silence.

Human rights group Liberty is backing two motorists in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg after the courts rejected their arguments.

The Department for Transport said it would "vigorously" defend current laws.

"The case essentially concerns the requirement for vehicle keepers to identify the driver of a vehicle identified on a speed camera," a spokesman said.

"The applicants claim this requirement breaches the right against self-incrimination and thereby their right to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The UK government does not accept this claim."

The case is being brought by Idris Francis, from West Meon, Hampshire, and Gerard O'Halloran, from London.

Their lawyer, James Welch of Liberty, said if their case was successful the government would have to find new ways of collecting evidence for motoring offences.

Under current laws a driver had two choices - either to admit they were driving, or to refuse to provide information on the driver, he said.

'Mass prosecutions'

If the driver conceded they were driving, he said it would amount to an admission and form part of the prosecution case against them.

And if the driver refused to provide information, they would be prosecuted under different laws.

Mr Welch said: "This offends against a very important principle - namely that you should not have to incriminate yourself.

"You should not be made subject to a criminal penalty in order to make you provide information that then forms part of the prosecution case against you."

The case renews the debate about speed cameras, with campaign groups on either side joining the argument over the case.

Paul Smith from the Safe Speed group, who believes cameras divert motorists' attention away from the roads, said British justice had been "undermined for the sake of nothing more than needless mass prosecutions".

Jools Townsend from the Brake charity, who supports speed cameras, said if the pair won their case it would have a "devastating effect" on road safety in the country.

The court's ruling on section 172 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 is not expected for several months.

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