Coombe Bissett Speeding
An update on the Coombe Bissett speeding case I am facing. I still have a few days to roll over and pay the fine or I can go to court.
I think the email trail below shows my thinking and may be of interest to others.
(Just in case let me make clear I'm not a lawyer and you shouldn't rely on my opinions, especially if you get caught in Coombe Bissett and want to claim you drove in via the Old Blandford Road...)
To Nick Blencowe (Acting Inspector in charge of Wiltshire Speed Cameras)
Please could you confirm to me the speed limit in force on The Old Blandford Road in Coombe Bissett - Map reference SU098238 to SU108264 When it leaves the A354 at the southern end it is a Byway Open to All Traffic without illumination or any signage so I believe it is 60mph (for cars, other vehicles as usual) As it approaches the village it transforms into a tarmac road, still without illumination or any signage.
On inspecting it today I was unable to spot any Terminator signs for the 30 limit that is in the village. Please also confirm that this entrance to the village either has no signage or where they are.
(Nick kindly inspected the road and replied by phone that there are no terminator signs there.)
The speed limit in Coombe Bisset must be set by a TRO because they have repeater signs, and it is illegal to have 30 repeater signs on an illumiated road that is automatically a 30.
I entered the village via The Old Blandford Road from outside the TRO area.
There are no paired signs there to indicate the start of a restricted area as required.
It is a Byway Open to All Traffic which means it is a highway with all the rights and obligations of any other highway.
It is not a cul-du-sac as it opens onto a non restricted highway at the southern end.
Absence of signs is a valid defence.
http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/faq.htm?id=52 gives some more details Wilts Safety Camera team should remember the A303 Folly Bottom pre-trial review hearing at Salisbury Magistrates Courts on 17 February 2005 where they had to withdraw speeding prosecutions because of inadequate signage.
I would hope they would want to avoid a repeat of that case.
Dear Ms Butcher (Officer in charge of Conditional Offers)
I'm surprised to receive a COFP from you today. As your literature makes clear about the COFP - "mistakes can be very costly and result in a loss of revenue upon which the Unit depends."
You will also be aware that the WSCP made a costly mistake on A303 at Folly Bottom in 2005 because of inadequate signage.
Coombe Bissett also has inadequate signage;
If you enter Coombe Bissett via The Old Blandford Road, a highway classified as a BOAT which isn't a cul-du-sac but comes from the main A road south of the village there are no paired terminal speed limit signs:
Direction 8 of Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002
2) In accordance with the following provisions of this direction and the provisions of direction 9, appropriate signs to which this direction applies shall be placed to indicate the point at which a restriction, requirement, prohibition or speed limit app lying to traffic on a road (in this direction and in direction 9 called the "relevant road") begins.
(3) Subject to paragraphs (4), (5) and (6) and to direction 9, a sign to which this direction applies shall be placed on the relevant road at or as near as practicable to the point referred to in paragraph (2) -
(a) where the relevant road has only one carriageway, on each side of that carriageway...
Quite clearly The Old Blandford Road entrance to Coombe Bissett fails this Direction of having a 30 sign on "each side of that carriageway"
"at or as near as practicable to" where the speed limit begins.
The speed limit is unenforceable.
Let's try to avoid another costly mistake and embarrassment.
Nick Blencowe's reply:
I do not accept that the 30 mph speed limit on the A354 at Coombe Bisset is unenforceable due to lack of signage on the Old Blandford Road By-way. As I explained, I have referred the matter for expert opinion to clarify the situation but it is my belief that there is sufficient information to make road users joining the A354 at that point, aware of the 30 mph restriction.
I'm not a lawyer so I will forward your email to my solicitor for his comments but your reference to "sufficient information" brings to mind Coombes v DPP  EWHC 3263 (Admin) (20 December 2006)
URL: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2006/3263.html where the Court emphasised that the test of signage was one of "adequate guidance".
However Paragraph 15 of the judgement reads:
The direction for the placement of the traditional roadside speed limit signs is Direction 8. This requires the placement of traditional signs (670) on each side of the carriageway at the point at which the speed restriction starts.
Paragraph 26 makes clear that the Judge did not express any view as to whether in this case the relevant obligation to erect and maintain traffic signs in such positions as may be requisite in order to give effect to the Directions was fulfilled or not.
So I think we can see that Coombes shows that paired signs are required even though in that case it was not a material fact.
I wouldn't therefore expect you to rely on Coombes for any precedent that signage merely has to be adequate when the judge clearly sets out a requirement that wasn't followed.
A second reply in response to a phone call from Nick:
Thank you for drawing my attention to the Shersby speeding case in Sussex.
Reading the judgement by Judge Roger Ede I think it is good news for all of us.
Mr Shersby argued that the speed limit was unenforceable because minor roads leading onto the stretch of road he was caught on didn't have terminal signs. However he admitted he hadn't entered the area by those entrances and had actually passed a pair of terminal signs.
The Judge said: " he was "not concerned with the case with the hypothetical case of a motorist who may have entered the speed restriction imposed by the Order without having passed requisite signs" and that "I see nothing inequitable or unfair in my taking this approach as the hypothetical motorist I have referred to may well have a defence to a charge of speeding if what Mr Shersby says is true. But that would be for another court on another day to decide on that case's own facts. As a consequence, I do not consider it necessary for me to decide whether the other routes referred to by Mr Shersby were roads or not or had the requisite signs or not"
From that I think you can take the message that even though the entrance to the Coombe Bissett speed limit via the Old Blandford Road doesn't have the required terminal signs it doesn't necessarily mean that the speed limit is unenforceable for vehicles that enter it along the main road where there are signs. So by dropping my case you would not be opening the floodgates to similar cases.
And of course it is quite obvious that the Shersby finding is no precedent as I did enter the area through an unsigned entrance.
Mr Shersby also passed up to seven repeater signs whereas the survey of Coombe Bissett from the Old Blandford Road entrance shows that the first repeater sign is at the junction and is side on to emerging traffic and so unnoticeable. The second sign, on the east side of the road, is in a hedge, a hedge that has been cut back and the sign spruced up since the date in question, and the third sign, on the west side of the road, is at the lay-by where the camera van was parked, again the sign has been improved and being on the opposite side of the road it would be hidden by oncoming traffic. So the argument of adequate signage doesn't apply either.