Doubt over police speed detection tactics

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Doubt has been cast over police methods for catching speeding motorcyclists after a case was dramatically thrown out by a court.  

Colin Jameson, 43, and Andrew Bones, 40, both from Durham, were cleared after it emerged police did not actually know how fast either had been going. Instead they had calculated an average speed for both riders.   

Officers had timed the two bikes’ progress between two points, starting the moment the lead bike passed the first point and stopping as the tailing bike passed the second point. Speed was calculated by dividing the distance between the points by the time taken.

But police took no notice of whether the bikes swapped positions between the two points. If the riders had changed places, one could have been travelling much faster than the other.

Jameson and Bones were accused of riding at an average of 88.62mph on a 60mph stretch of the A68 in Roxburghshire, Scotland, last July. Both denied the charge.
Jameson was found not guilty at Jedburgh Justice of the Peace Court after Philip Murray JP said: “To take an average speed to a court is not good enough.” He said the “one in and one out” tactic left room for doubt.

Defence lawyer Maureen Sinclair had argued the evidence was “unsafe”.
She also pointed out officers had lost sight of the riders as they timed them because they had positioned themselves at a point where part of the road was obscured by trees. She said they had no idea which of the bikes passed the start or finish point first. 

She added: “In a speed trap, the vehicles must remain in sight at all times.”
Expert witness Kenneth Cowell said he had “no idea” how 88.62mph had been arrived at but that it was incorrect.

He said the speed detection equipment used – called Vascar for visual average speed computer and recorder – was “not designed to work out average speed of multiple vehicles. It is designed to work out the speed of one vehicle.”

Bones appeared immediately after Jameson but the case was abandoned by the Crown.

Lothian and Borders Police said in a statement: “The device is regularly used to record the speed of a single vehicle, however there is no specific guidance to dictate that more than one vehicle travelling simultaneously cannot be recorded.

“In such an instance the speed will be calculated from the time when the first vehicle passes over the start point to when the second vehicle crosses the finish point, allowing calculation of a minimum speed for the distance covered by both motorists.

“A similar case in the Scottish Borders involving two motorcyclists earned a conviction last year.

“It is intended to review the circumstances which surrounded the dismissal of this case.”

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Steve Farrell

By Steve Farrell