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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Driver's anger at camera 'misuse'
William Shaw, picture courtesy Andrew Price
Mr Shaw
A magistrate has sympathised with a pensioner who was fined for overtaking a tractor at 39mph.

William Shaw, a 71-year-old retired bank manager, claimed in court his prosecution was a misuse of power by police.

He lost a 50-year clean driving record when a speed camera spotted his manoeuvre on the road in Flintshire, north Wales.

After imposing a 60 fine, 30 costs and three penalty points, Kathleen Cottle, chairman of the bench, said: "It is a problem. The speed cameras are everywhere." North Wales Police has defended the prosecution.

'Soft targets'

Mr Shaw, of Fron Castell, Llangollen, represented himself in court - pleading guilty to the charge - in the hope that magistrates would throw the case out and reprimand the force.

He said the case had nothing to do with road safety as he had completed the manoeuvre in total safety - and argued that police were simply hitting soft targets like him to raise money through fines and to improve their performance figures.

A police speed camera
Watching you: Cameras are everywhere, a magistrate says

He said: "Stripping out the fancy packaging, what are the essential facts?

"An honest, law-abiding pensioner with a blemish-free recorded extending close on 50 years, successfully completed a road manoeuvre in total safety.

"In doing so, he unwittingly may have strayed over the speed limit by a few mph for a very brief period.

"The police answer is to threaten him with court proceedings, a maximum fine of 1,000 and penalty points unless he pays them 60 - and then prosecute him in court, take away a chunk of his pension and make him out for all to see as a bad and dangerous driver, and a convicted offender.

'Misuse of court time'

"The court now has an opportunity to bring back fairness to this area and provide some protection for law-abiding folk who unintentionally find themselves in a comparatively minor breach of regulations but being pursued with all the vigour the police can muster.

"This is a misuse of court time. I ask this court to issue a reprimand to the police for the misuse of their powers."

Chairman Kathleen Cottle told him that they had "every sympathy" with him losing a 50-year unblemished driving record.

She said: "But unfortunately, our hands are tied. We have guidelines to follow."

Chief constable

The court was told Mr Shaw could appeal against the fine but he risked the fine being increased and additional costs.

Mr Shaw told magistrates that he had taken the issue up with his MP Mr Martyn Jones who had contacted the force's chief constable, Richard Brunstrom, and he had also been in touch with the shadow Home Secretary, Oliver Letwin.

A spokesman for North Wales Police said: "It is indeed unfortunate that Mr Shaw has, by exceeding the speed limit by nearly one-third, blemished his previous clean driving record.

"The responsibility for that lies with Mr Shaw."

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27 May 02  |  Wales
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