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Quentin Willson's Motoring Column: Caught snapping; NEW WHITEHALL FARCE OVER SPEED CAMERAS.

Byline: Quentin Willson

T HE victory might seem small, but the significance is enormous. The relationship between the government and Britain's motorists has changed for ever.

This week's volte-face by the Department of Transport over the siting of speed cameras proves Number 10 is seriously worried. It also proves the UK's 30 million drivers have huge electoral power.

From initially insisting the UK needs more cameras, the government has been forced to step in before revenue-hungry councils and police forces turn the speed camera issue into an electoral time bomb.

Common sense has triumphed and Whitehall's transport advisers now look like fools. This week's DoT announcement means hundreds of Britain's 5,000 GATSO cameras will be removed or resited unless they're on roads with a proven accident history.

The tougher-than-expected new regulations insist that all cameras must be painted yellow, be clearly visible, have warning signs and mustn't be sneakily hidden behind signs or bushes. But if the government agrees, which it does, that hundreds of cameras have been unfairly sited, it could kick off complicated legal and moral arguments over past and future speed camera convictions.

The new rules allow councils six months to resite inappropriately positioned cameras, so what happens to drivers who get flashed and fined in the meantime? You can't admit a mistake and then carry on perpetuating that mistake.

One lawyer I spoke to said that unless badly-sited cameras are moved immediately, magistrates will be swamped with defence solicitors brandishing the DoT's new regulations. Drivers will claim the offending camera had been deliberately hidden and the magistrate concerned will have to take legal advice.

So if you're flashed by a camera that doesn't conform to the new regulations, tell your brief. If enough of us flag up this unfair confusion, maybe the government will force greedy councils to rip every wrongly-sited speed camera out of the ground immediately. And that would be the sweetest victory of all.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 24, 2002
Words:322
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