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Speed Offences (Police Timing)

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 27 May 1943

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asked the Home Secretary in how many cases he has authorised the prosecution of motor-car drivers for alleged speed offences in built-up areas when they have been timed by one police constable on a motor-cycle by reference to his speedometer and without any corroborative evidence?

The question whether the evidence reMered in support of a charge is sufficient to satisfy the court that the offence is proved is one for the court itself to decide. I have given no authorisation in the sense indicated in the Question, nor have I any power to do so. Prosecutions, of course, are not undertaken by my authority.

Having regard to the impossibility of one constable keeping his eye continuously on the speedometer and at the same time watching the traffic, will my right hon. Friend discourage this method of timing?

If I were to accept that argument, every motorist would be able to plead that as he was not able to keep his eye on the speedometer he did not know how fast he was going. There is a provision about this in law. The Road Traffic Act, 1930, provides that a person shall not be liable to be convicted for the offence of speeding solely on the evidence of one witness to the effect that in the opinion of the witness the motorist was driving at an excessive speed, and it is for the court to decide on the evidence whether the speedometer is the opinion of the witness. I think the matter could only be dealt with by a change of law rather than by instructions to the police.

Is not the difference that the motorist does not need to keep his eye continuously on the speedometer whereas the constable has to judge speed, and it is necessary for him to do so?

I think every motorist will know that that is not an insoluble problem.