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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 12:45 GMT
Vintage car driver fights speed law
Speed camera
Speed camera laws are under threat
A vintage car owner is taking his legal fight against speed camera laws to Europe in an effort to protect his "right to silence".

Retired company director Idris Francis's 1938 Alvis Speed 25, which has appeared in a string of films and TV programmes, was caught on camera doing 47mph in a 30mph zone.

He wants to argue in the European Court of Human Rights that the law on the roadside cameras breaches his right to silence.

It is a breach of my human rights to demand that I incriminate myself

Idris Francis
Vehicle owners are required to disclose who was behind the wheel at the time the photograph was taken.

Mr Francis, 62, of West Meon, near Petersfield, Hampshire, refused to reveal who was driving and was prosecuted under the Road Traffic Act.

He argued that the law breached his right to silence under the human rights convention and the case against him was adjourned by magistrates in Guildford, Surrey.

Aided by barrister Michael Shrimpton, who also defended "Metric Martyr" Steve Thoburn, Mr Francis has now applied to have his case heard in Strasbourg.

Strasbourg drive

His car has appeared in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries television series and was most recently seen in Kenneth Branagh's big-screen adaptation of Love's Labours Lost.

It forms part of a collection of five motors owned by Mr Francis, which includes another Alvis and a Bentley Continental.

The classic car enthusiast plans to drive the car to Strasbourg if a judge there agrees to hear the case.

Mr Francis said: "The right to silence is a fundamental part of British law and has been for centuries.

"In my view it is therefore a breach of my human rights to demand that I incriminate myself.

'Unlimited power'

"It means the state has the power to say to people 'we think you have committed a crime but because we don't have evidence to convict you beyond reasonable doubt, we are going to force you to confess'.

"That is extremely dangerous and it is putting unlimited power in the hands of the state.

"This is not just about speed cameras, it is about all of our rights."

Mr Francis's case is being supported by the Association of British Drivers, which has set up a fighting fund to help foot the estimated 20,000 legal bill.

Even before the Human Rights Act, a handful of drivers have avoided conviction because of their right to silence being breached by a letter threatening more serious charges.

Irresponsible action

Steve Hounsham, spokesman for pressure group Transport 2000, told BBC News Online the thinking behind the legal challenge was "potty".

"It is a very irresponsible action - motorists should be responsible to what they do on the roads.

"If this is someone who has been recorded as breaking the speed limit, that is inexcusable.

"Speed limits are there for a reason."

See also:

16 Jun 00 | Scotland
Fresh warning over rights law
29 Apr 00 | Scotland
Leading QC backs human rights law
29 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Warning over rights act
04 Feb 00 | Scotland
Car ruling threatens court chaos
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