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8/18/2005
Canadian and UK Courts Punish Anyone Fighting a Photo Ticket
Courts in Canada and England take extraordinary measures to prevent anyone from challenging photographic citations.

Peter Rhodes
Individuals trying to fight red light camera and speed camera tickets in the UK and Canada are finding the courts have ways to punish those who attempt to question the system. A Canadian man faces criminal charges for honestly attempting to fight a ticket, and a UK man must pay an extra £350 (US $630) for bringing his case to court.

"The system seems designed to say, 'Either pay or we'll make your life hell,'" Edmonton, Canada resident Maurice Hilarius explained to the Edmonton Sun.

"Rule One: You are guilty," Peter Rhodes of the Midlands, UK explained in an article in the Express & Star. "Rule Two: In the event of your being innocent, Rule One applies."

Hilarius decided to fight his photo radar ticket because he was certain of his innocence. He had been to the court three separate times to arrange for his trial, and when his May 12 date arrived, a court officer said his court date was actually May 2 and that he had already been convicted. When Hilarius showed his notice to appear, which said May 12, they allowed him to plead his case anyway. He was again found guilty, but the judge reduced the fine slightly.

Days later, however, prosecutors -- against the advice of the police -- brought charges of perjury, forgery and obstruction of justice against Hilarius, accusing him of changing the date on his court notice.

"Why would I risk everything to try to save a few bucks on a photo radar fine?" Hilarius asked. "It doesn't make any sense."

If convicted of the new charges, Hilarius will likely lose his job selling computer equipment to the US, UK and Canadian governments because of the security clearances required. "Maybe I shouldn't have fought this at all," Hilarius said. "But if you can't stand up and fight for what you believe in a democracy, how sad is that?"

Hilarius stands trial on the new charges September 20.

When Rhodes attempted to fight his red light camera ticket in court, he made a conscious decision not to rely on legal technicalities -- even though he might win with such a defense. Rhodes has driven more than a million miles over 37 years without ever being convicted of anything.

"My case was simple," Rhodes explained. "Approaching a junction in Kingswinford I was confronted by a pedestrian in the road. I braked but the car behind did not. If I carried on braking there would have been a collision involving two cars and the pedestrian. The only safe option was to go forward. As I did so, the light changed to red."

He used charts, measurements, data and the red light camera photos themselves to bolster his case which took an hour to present. The court found him guilty anyway, as the courts have done in every single red light camera trial, according to the AA Motoring Trust. Courts regularly boost the £60 photo fine up to £1000 as a disincentive for anyone to try.

"To be called a liar by a stranger and relieved of £350 seems a high price to pay for doing the right thing in difficult circumstances," Rhodes said.

Source: Speed spat (Edmonton Sun (Canada), 8/18/2005)

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