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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.

Thank you

(Nick kindly inspected the road and replied by phone that there are no terminator signs there.)

My Notes:
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
states:
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.

My Reply:
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 [2006] 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.

Comments

Rule 1 - scammers lie
Rule 2 - see Rule 1.

Pay a visit to pepipoo.com !!!

The speed limit envelope argument that all terminal signs entering a speed limit area that is set by a Traffic Regulation Order (that is a speed limit that is by default not National Speed Limit or a 30mph Restricted Road with a system of regular street lights) must be in place on all routes leading to a particular speed limit detection point was successfully previously won in the A27 cases at Fareham and involving road traffic sign expert Richard Bentley and solicitors from Blake Lapthorn (see www.rmbconsulting.co.uk and http://forums.pepipoo.com/index.php?showtopic=3023&st=320). It relied on exactly the same point that some motorists arriving at a speed camera detection point had passed the required terminal signs and that others had not and that those who had passed the requisite terminal signs should also not be convicted because of the lack of equitability of some motorists detected at the detection point having been advised of the limit set by the TRO and others having been not so warned).

In my opinion the main reason the Fareham case succeeded and mine did not was because I did not publicise my case in the local newspaper before it came to court in order to get a large number of other motorists cases joined to mine before they were heard by the magistrates court. As a result of this it was not then cost effective for me to be legally represented in the case as the combined cost of solicitor representation and an expert witness appearance by road traffic sign expert Mr Richard Bentley (see www.rmbconsulting.co.uk) would probably have been over £5,000 with no guarantee at all that I would win my case. Therefore I relied on doing my best as an intelligent layman with a different district judge from Judge Gillibrand who made it very difficult indeed for a defendant representing himself in court to put their case as I was consistently prevented from putting several documents I had brought with me in quadruplicate in front of the court whilst the Police officer was allowed to circulate a variety of phtotographs of the road that were not numbered and he did not have more than one copy of to give to the court. I also had various questions about the Police officer's training on checking that all traffic signs were in order before starting each period of enforcement ruled as inadmissible by the judge.


It was absolutely clear cut that Surrey County Council had no terminal 50mph signs at all on at least six unadopted private side roads joining the A24 50mph TRO limited area at Mickleham and that at least two of these roads led directly as a route to the mobile camera van detection point and there were also missing and defective terminal signs on two National Speed Limit 60mph B roads where they entered the 50mph speed from the north. Although the case was heard by a district judge he was still sitting in a magistrates court and so was still allowed to interpret the law in a more simplistic fashion, especially as I was a not lawyer and so not able to advance more obstruse and complex technical legal arguments about these matters that lawyers might put forward, such as the question of "mens rea". Also by representing myself and not being legally represented I was then forced to take the witness stand to try to talk about my evidence on the defective signing. This then let the prosecution being able to cross examine me about the terminal and repeater signs I did pass. If I had been legally represented this would not have happened.

I discussed my case briefly by email without charge with both Mr Bentley and the solicitors from Blake Lapthorn involved in the A27 Fareham case and it was suggested that I could appeal by being joined to another application going to the High Court in the case of Matthew Peake that apparently revolved on the same principal argument of all terminal signs entering a speed limit set by a TRO needing to be in order for it to be enforceable. However the bottom line is that I was expected to stump up £3,000 just to be joined to this case and with the strong likelihood that considerably more costs might be payable in due course if the appeal was not successful. There is no certainty at all that when this case is heard in the High Court that it will be successful and even if it is Hampshire County Council might well appeal to the Court of Appeal because they have so much at stake viz a viz it being very difficult for them to maintain all terminal speed limit signs in order at all times. This is of course quite different from my case where the 50mph signs on the six side roads joining the A24 at Mickleham had not been vandalised or removed but Surrey County Council had simply not bothered to ever install them when they lowered the speed limit on this part of the A24 from 70mph NSL to 50mph first in 1996 and then later on in 1999 on a further section of the road. In court they brought in an alleged expert witness (a Mr Ian Duncan instructed by ACPO's Road Safety Support) to try to argue that what were in fact quite obviously roads with tarmac and that in two cases supported a large private housing estate with a couple of hundred homes were only bridleways or footpaths. The judge criticised the calling in of this witness on the basis that it was irrelevant to the question of whether or not I had passed 50mph terminal signs on the road I was travelling on and for this reason he slashed the prosecution's costs award from the £750 they had applied for to £250 (they must actually have incurred around £3,000 of costs as a barrister from London chambers was also instructed to represent them at two of the four hearings). In a way by calling in Mr Bentley Surrey Safety Camera Partnership were actually risking being seen to accept the concept of the TRO speed limit envelope signing argument but then trying to get out of it by arguing these roads were not the kind of roads with a faster limit joining a slower limit (the side roads had no speed limit as they were all unlit and on private land and had no Traffic Regulation Order setting a speed limit of their own) that needed to be signed. Their argument was also made very thin indeed by the fact that five out of six of these roads had TSRGD compliant Clearway signs and Give Way signs and Dual Carriageway arrow signs (some of them lit at night) installed at their junctions with the A24. On the whole I have not known walkers or those on horseback to ever require guidance under TRSGD 2002 to observe a Clearwaywhere a bridleway alone reaches a main road.

Because this case went their way the Camera Partnerships are now trying to argue that my case sets some kind of precedent but had it been the other way round they would have been the first to point out that as it was not heard in one of the higher courts of the land it sets no precedent whatsoever. Judge Ede was also very quick to point out that the decisions taken on the A27 case at Fareham by Judge Gillibrand did not bind him in any way in deciding my case for that very reason.

So the bottom line is that the matter remains unresolved and no precedent will be set on the question of speed limit envelopes and all terminal signs needing to comply with TSRGD 2002 until there is a ruling in the Matthew Peake case in the High Court, which may then of course be appealed by Hampshire Safety Camera Partnership or the new Supreme Court (that has replaced the House of Lords as the final court of appeal). I would tend to expect Hampshire SCP to keep appealing all the way because of the number of existing cases that could be thrown out if it if is established that all terminal speed limit signs entering a TRO limited speed limit area must be present and compliant with the Traffic Sign Regulations & General Directions 2002.

In short my case did not succeed in large part because I had not organised it in to a test case involving lots of other motorists accused of exceeding the same speed limit and hence was not then able to afford to spend the £10,000 or so that seems to be required to employ a legal team and expert traffic sign team to persuade a judge that they must interpret the traffic sign rules on a more literal basis for the whole Traffic Regulation Order area and not just simply on the basis of whether or not a motorist passed one or more speed limit signs showing the limit in question (the kind of interpretation that tends to be acceptable in the magistrates court).

The speed limit envelope argument that all terminal signs entering a speed limit area that is set by a Traffic Regulation Order (that is a speed limit that is by default not National Speed Limit or a 30mph Restricted Road with a system of regular street lights) must be in place on all routes leading to a particular speed limit detection point was successfully previously won in the A27 cases at Fareham and involving road traffic sign expert Richard Bentley and solicitors from Blake Lapthorn (see www.rmbconsulting.co.uk and http://forums.pepipoo.com/index.php?showtopic=3023&st=320). It relied on exactly the same point that some motorists arriving at a speed camera detection point had passed the required terminal signs and that others had not and that those who had passed the requisite terminal signs should also not be convicted because of the lack of equitability of some motorists detected at the detection point having been advised of the limit set by the TRO and others having been not so warned.

In my opinion the main reason the Fareham case succeeded and mine did not was because I did not publicise my case in the local newspaper before it came to court in order to get a large number of other motorists cases joined to mine before they were heard by the magistrates court. As a result of this it was not then cost effective for me to be legally represented in the case as the combined cost of solicitor representation and an expert witness appearance by road traffic sign expert Mr Richard Bentley (see www.rmbconsulting.co.uk) would probably have been over £5,000 with no guarantee at all that I would win my case. Therefore I relied on doing my best as an intelligent layman with a different district judge from Judge Gillibrand who made it very difficult indeed for a defendant representing himself in court to put their case as I was consistently prevented from putting several documents I had brought with me in quadruplicate in front of the court whilst the Police officer was allowed to circulate a variety of phtotographs of the road that were not numbered and he did not have more than one copy of to give to the court. I also had various questions about the Police officer's training on checking that all traffic signs were in order before starting each period of enforcement ruled as inadmissible by the judge.

It was absolutely clear cut that Surrey County Council had no terminal 50mph signs at all on at least six unadopted private side roads joining the A24 50mph TRO limited area at Mickleham and that at least two of these roads led directly as a route to the mobile camera van detection point and there were also missing and defective terminal signs on two National Speed Limit 60mph B roads where they entered the 50mph speed from the north. Although the case was heard by a district judge he was still sitting in a magistrates court and so was still allowed to interpret the law in a more simplistic fashion, especially as I was a not lawyer and so not able to advance more obstruse and complex technical legal arguments about these matters that lawyers might put forward, such as the question of "mens rea". Also by representing myself and not being legally represented I was then forced to take the witness stand to try to talk about my evidence on the defective signing. This then let the prosecution being able to cross examine me about the terminal and repeater signs I did pass. If I had been legally represented this would not have happened.

I discussed my case briefly by email without charge with both Mr Bentley and the solicitors from Blake Lapthorn involved in the A27 Fareham case and it was suggested that I could appeal by being joined to another application going to the High Court in the case of Matthew Peake that apparently revolved on the same principal argument of all terminal signs entering a speed limit set by a TRO needing to be in order for it to be enforceable. However the bottom line is that I was expected to stump up £3,000 just to be joined to this case and with the strong likelihood that considerably more costs might be payable in due course if the appeal was not successful. There is no certainty at all that when this case is heard in the High Court that it will be successful and even if it is Hampshire County Council might well appeal to the Court of Appeal because they have so much at stake viz a viz it being very difficult for them to maintain all terminal speed limit signs in order at all times. This is of course quite different from my case where the 50mph signs on the six side roads joining the A24 at Mickleham had not been vandalised or removed but Surrey County Council had simply not bothered to ever install them when they lowered the speed limit on this part of the A24 from 70mph NSL to 50mph first in 1996 and then later on in 1999 on a further section of the road. In court they brought in an alleged expert witness (a Mr Ian Duncan instructed by ACPO's Road Safety Support) to try to argue that what were in fact quite obviously roads with tarmac and that in two cases supported a large private housing estate with a couple of hundred homes were only bridleways or footpaths. The judge criticised the calling in of this witness on the basis that it was irrelevant to the question of whether or not I had passed 50mph terminal signs on the road I was travelling on and for this reason he slashed the prosecution's costs award from the £750 they had applied for to £250 (they must actually have incurred around £3,000 of costs as a barrister from London chambers was also instructed to represent them at two of the four hearings). In a way by calling in Mr Bentley Surrey Safety Camera Partnership were actually risking being seen to accept the concept of the TRO speed limit envelope signing argument but then trying to get out of it by arguing these roads were not the kind of roads with a faster limit joining a slower limit (the side roads had no speed limit as they were all unlit and on private land and had no Traffic Regulation Order setting a speed limit of their own) that needed to be signed. Their argument was also made very thin indeed by the fact that five out of six of these roads had TSRGD compliant Clearway signs and Give Way signs and Dual Carriageway arrow signs (some of them lit at night) installed at their junctions with the A24. On the whole I have not known walkers or those on horseback to ever require guidance under TRSGD 2002 to observe a Clearwaywhere a bridleway alone reaches a main road.

Because this case went their way the Camera Partnerships are now trying to argue that my case sets some kind of precedent but had it been the other way round they would have been the first to point out that as it was not heard in one of the higher courts of the land it sets no precedent whatsoever. Judge Ede was also very quick to point out that the decisions taken on the A27 case at Fareham by Judge Gillibrand did not bind him in any way in deciding my case for that very reason.

So the bottom line is that the matter remains unresolved and no precedent will be set on the question of speed limit envelopes and all terminal signs needing to comply with TSRGD 2002 until there is a ruling in the Matthew Peake case in the High Court, which may then of course be appealed by Hampshire Safety Camera Partnership or the new Supreme Court (that has replaced the House of Lords as the final court of appeal). I would tend to expect Hampshire SCP to keep appealing all the way because of the number of existing cases that could be thrown out if it if is established that all terminal speed limit signs entering a TRO limited speed limit area must be present and compliant with the Traffic Sign Regulations & General Directions 2002.

In short my case did not succeed in large part because I had not organised it in to a test case involving lots of other motorists accused of exceeding the same speed limit and hence was not then able to afford to spend the £10,000 or so that seems to be required to employ a legal team and expert traffic sign team to persuade a judge that they must interpret the traffic sign rules on a more literal basis for the whole Traffic Regulation Order area and not just simply on the basis of whether or not a motorist passed one or more speed limit signs showing the limit in question (the kind of interpretation that tends to be acceptable in the magistrates court).

We all know when we should be driving at the correct safe speed through a village. If caught speeding, admit you’re stupid and inconsiderate and pay the cost. Next time you may not be so lucky and end up simply as a fatality statistic.

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