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Motor Mouth articles 2009

Justice at last – technically

FOR the second time in my life, I have just been granted a free pardon for a speeding offence.

This time it involved that notorious speed camera set-up at Chideock, near Bridport, where I was snapped on New Year’s Eve 2002 while on my way to a little do in Devon.

The previous time it happened near Warminster en route to a more salubrious do at Longleat House; when I arrived (late), almost everyone present had been caught, too.

A couple of years later I had my fine returned, my endorsement scrubbed out. Her Majesty stuck in a note of apology and everyone agreed that we’d say no more about it.

It was due to some sort of technicality – the lamp-posts were too far apart or something, so hundreds of grateful, guilty speeders, going back years, had their fines returned.

This time, there was something amiss regarding the Traffic Regulation Order paperwork involved in the Chideock trap, according to one Johnny Stephens, head of fixed penalties, Dorset Safety Camera Partnership.

It’s a title to be proud of, that’s for sure, but how odd that the fellow chooses to style himself Johnny. What’s wrong with John, a far more grown-up name? Johnny is what Johns are called when they’re little or what celebrities were called in the 1950s. Like Johnny Haynes or Johnny Ray.

Anyway, I digress. Johnny (a thought: maybe he is only a slip of a lad and he’ll use his proper name when he’s older?) proffers not a word of apology for the inconvenience and expense caused to me by this miscarriage of justice.

Granted, there were no banner-carrying protesters demanding justice for the Chideock Hundreds, but whichever way you cut it, I was wrongfully convicted. I may have been doing 37 in the 30 limit at 9pm on a completely empty road but Britain’s justice system should have looked after me better than this.

After all, the penalty points on my licence might have pushed me over the threshold and into a ban. The ban may have cost me my job. Unemployment may have cost me my marriage, my home, my reputation . . . it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Fortunately it didn’t, but Johnny, in what he calls “the interests of fairness” – no mention of the law of the land or natural justice – says if I wish to request a refund – IF! IF? – I have to fill in a form, jump through several hoops and wait an eternity.

Presumably if I don’t choose to make the request, my dosh will be kept by the Right Honourable Eyebrows Darling so that he can reduce my car tax next year or build a hospital or finance a military strike on somewhere in the Gulf.

Now I read that more than 18,000 fines handed to motorists caught driving in bus lanes in Manchester have been deemed illegal because the cameras hadn’t been formally certified. The city council are facing a payout of £544,000 in refunds.

Lawlessness at every turn. What is this country coming to?

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