11/17/2006UK: Judge Removes Speed Camera CEO from Case
UK judge rules that speed camera CEO cannot give independent expert testimony in traffic case.
Employees of photo enforcement companies are often the sole "expert" witnesses called to testify in automated traffic cases in both the US and the UK. Earlier this month, Northampton Crown Court Judge Peter Morrell rejected the idea that Tele-Traffic UK CEO Frank Garratt could possibly serve as an independent expert witness in a case because of his direct financial interest in the outcome.
In August 2005, a speed camera accused Gregory Barnett of driving 60 MPH in a 50 zone on the A6. Barnett contested the fine in Magistrates Court and lost because prosecution delays prevented him from making an effective defense.
The Magistrates court imposed £1247 (US $2355) in fines, fees and costs on Barnett, an amount far in excess of the £60 (US $113) fine he was fighting. Barnett appealed this penalty. Morrell dropped the penalty to £599 (US $1131) saying, "It is wrong in principle where a person has declined the offer of a fixed penalty and is subsequently convicted by the Court, to impose a large fine."
Morrell expressed disappointment in not being able to try the full case and rejected outright the fees claimed by "so-called expert" Frank Garratt.
"He cannot be considered an independent expert when the machine he markets, made in the United States, is under attack," Judge Morrell wrote. "It is not just whether his view is under attack, but he derives a substantial financial interest from his activities with the device."
A copy of the ruling appears below.
Article Excerpt:Appeal of Gregory Maroney Barnett
Judgment of His Honour Judge Morrell at Northampton Crown Court
Friday 3 November 2006
This appellant appeals against a conviction of the Northampton Magistrates Court on 22 August 2005 for driving on the A6 bypass at 60mph in a 50mph area. This appeal has had a chequered history and it is a matter of regret that it has not been disposed of long ago.
Mr Burton tells me that the delay is the reason for abandonment.
The Appellant was offered a fixed penalty of £60 but he decided to contest the case in the Magistrates Court where he represented himself with an unhappy and unsatisfactory result. He says he was not given the opportunity properly to present his case.
It is wrong in principle where a person has declined the offer of a fixed penalty and is subsequently convicted by the Court, to impose a large fine. There is a fundamental injustice in that. The imposition of a fine is a deterrent, but it should possibly not exceed the original penalty.
The Appellant is still appealing against the fine and costs imposed by the Magistrates. I am satisfied that the fine should be reduced to £60 and the costs (of £364) should be reduced by £35 to £329, giving a total of fine and costs of £389. To this must be added the Prosecuting Counsel's fees amounting to £210, giving a grand total of £599. I allow the Appellant three months to pay.
I totally reject the claim of the so-called expert who asks for £723 for his report plus £100 for a 2-hour conference. He cannot be considered an independent expert when the machine he markets, made in the United States, is under attack. It is not just whether his view is under attack, but he derives a substantial financial interest from his activities with the device.
I express my disappointment at not being able to try this case.