Official in West Dorset, England will refund a total of 24,889 speed camera tickets worth £1,493,340 (US $2.5 million) that were improperly issued over the course of a decade. The Dorset Speed Camera Partnership yesterday gave up its four-year battle to hold onto the £60 (US $100) tickets issued at a location where the speed limit had been unlawfully lowered.
“The Dorset Speed Camera Partnership will be writing to all drivers affected, to inform them of the situation and outline the process to follow if they wish to have their fixed penalty refunded and the related penalty points removed from their driving license if still valid,” speed camera officials said in a written statement yesterday. “If your speeding offense is affected, you should receive a letter from the Dorset Speed Camera Partnership by the end of November 2009.”
In what the camera officials called a “historical clerical error,” the 1997 Traffic Regulation Order filed to lower the speed limit on the A35 in Chideock at “Seatown Road” to 30 MPH was invalid because there is no Seatown Road. In the absence of a valid order, the traffic code would set the limit at 40 MPH for the A35 near Duck Road.
Alan Dawe discovered the legal error after receiving a 41 MPH ticket at this location on October 27, 2005. Dawe used the resources of the motorist forum Pepipoo to build a strong legal case. It took another two years before a Dorchester Crown Court ruling in Dawe’s favor forced speed camera officials to admit their error. New paperwork legally lowered the speed limit to 30 MPH on November 13, 2007. Despite the tacit admission that the tickets issued between 1997 and 2007 were invalid, officials had refused refunds until now. Officials continue to insist that the speed limit near Duck Road is not set too low.
“Chideock is a small rural community with a main road running through the middle of the village and we are reassured that no one has tried to suggest that the speed limit should be anything other than 30 MPH,” Dorset Police Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Whiting said yesterday.
A number of motorists, however, have written letters to Dorset police over the years complaining that the speed limit is unreasonable.
“At the time of my offense, I actually believed due to the confusing signage at the site that I was in a 40 MPH zone and that I was not speeding,” a Pepipoo member explained in 2007. “Additionally, my supposed ‘offense’ occurred at 3am on an empty road. I actually wrote to Dorset police and the camera partnership explaining the situation, and explicitly expressing that I thought the signing was misleading and that the speed I was traveling at was not dangerous given the time and conditions.”
Another forum member questioned the justification used to install the speed camera.
“£6000 a week is not a bad little earner,” the motorist explained. “The story goes that there have been some very bad accidents in the village, which is in a dip, steep hills leading down to the village. Brake failure played a leading role in most of the accidents. Yet for some unknown reason, speed cameras were installed to stop ‘Brake Failures.’”
At present, refunds only apply for the citations issued by the westbound camera. Individuals involved in the legal challenge insist the eastbound camera was governed by the same faulty paperwork and that the number of refunds could grow beyond 50,000.