Clause 2

Part of Road Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 20th January 2005.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 2:45 pm, 20th January 2005

Mr. Pike, I, too, welcome you to the Chair. It is a great pleasure to serve again under your chairmanship.

The Minister has addressed some of our concerns, but this interesting debate has highlighted a lacuna in the law, which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would like addressed. It is the issue of someone who has personal mitigating circumstances which resulted in their speeding and being detected by a speed camera. Such personal mitigating circumstances would not be known by the operative   who looked at the film—the operative would not know, for example, that there was a sick child in the back of the car who was being taken to hospital.

When we were discussing a similar issue in relation to the Traffic Management Act 2004 and the rigidity associated with, for example, moving traffic offences in box junctions and bus lanes, the then Minister was very accommodating in saying that a code of practice should operate to enable people who felt that a camera did not tell the whole story and who wanted to make written representations to the authorities to do so, thus giving the authorities the opportunity to say that in the circumstances they would not prosecute. Unfortunately, under the fixed penalty regime under clause 2, there is no equivalent discretion available to the authorities to enable them on receipt of representations from a motorist to decide that they will not prosecute. All that can happen is that the matter goes to court if the recipient of the fixed penalty notice looks at what I described earlier as a rather misleading form which says that if there are mitigating circumstances, the recipient should go to court. However, by the time they get to court, it becomes apparent that the court does not have any discretion to give the equivalent of an absolute or conditional discharge, which would be available in all other criminal proceedings.