A defiant motorist has embarked on a landmark legal battle against speed cameras – after discovering that Gatso units may issue false tickets in cold weather.
Andrew Fowler, 48, was flashed in Cambridge on a freezing February morning last year allegedly travelling at 41mph in a 30mph limit.
But the dad-of-three, who passed the camera daily en route to work for 12 months, was sure the speedo on his silver Skoda Favorit read around 30mph.
He contested the ticket and began a one-man campaign to prove it was faulty, which if successful could open the doors for thousands of drivers to challenge speeding fines.
Experienced electrical engineer Andrew now claims to have expert evidence showing that Gatsos can give false readings when the outside temperature drops below 0*C.
He believes the cameras are only calibrated for accuracy between 0*C and 70*C, and at lower temperatures vital timing circuitry is slowed inside the unit.
This means as he passed the camera, when the temperature was minus -5*C, the normal half-second pause between the two images used to measure speed was delayed.
It would then give the impression that the car had travelled further over the white lines painted on the road used to calculate distance and give a higher speed reading.
He has now taken his appeal to Cambridge Crown Court, where he hopes to push for the matter to be taken to judicial review at the High Court in London.
Andrew, of Shepreth, Cambs., who had held a clean licence since passing his test over 20 years ago, said the risk of thousands in legal costs is worth it if justice can be done for all drivers.
He said: ”It’s me versus the system, there’s no two ways about it, and it is pretty daunting to be honest.
”I’m nowhere near being a rich man but I don’t mind how much this costs me because it is for a good cause, this is for all motorists.
”If I’m successful everyone will be at their crown court with speeding cases. Everyone will be able to appeal.”
He was flashed by the rear facing camera at 6.12am on February 2 last year on Trumpington Road on his way to work at Cambridge Railway Station.
Rather than accept a £60 fine and three points, he took the matter to trial at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court, where he lost and was handed a £350 bill in fine and costs plus four points.
However he has now taken his case to appeal and appeared before Judge Anthony Bate at Cambridge Crown Court on Wednesday, who set a hearing date for July.
In court papers he claims the integrated electrical circuit which sets the camera timer is not guaranteed to work below 0*C, and only ever calibrated at room temperature.
Andrew, who lives with wife Selina and children aged 18, 14 and 12, is representing himself in court to help keep legal costs down.
He added: “If it’s so cold the capacitor on the circuit can’t hold its charge or is damaged the flash will not go off in time.
“I drove past that camera every day for 12 months and it never flashed.
“I have no reason to believe I was speeding that day. I checked my speedometer and I was doing just over 30mph.
“I’m not anti-speed cameras. They are a piece of electronics on the side of the road designed to do a job. But they have to be right and they have to be correct.
“The Home Office needs to take a fresh look as to whether the Gatsos work.
“The whole thing is unfair. The motorist is being bullied.”
Hugh Bladon, co-founder of the Association of British Drivers (ABD), said that the case could be an important development for motorists.
He said: ”We do feel that some of the readings from these cameras are suspect.
”An awful lot of people lose their licences, livelihoods and even jobs and mortgages because of speeding penalties.
”If the case succeeds in proving that cameras are suspect below a certain temperature then the floodgates will open for further appeals.”
Gatso cameras are manufactured by Dutch firm Gatsometer and calibrated at their head quarters in Holland annually to ensure accuracy and Home Office compliance.
Swindon Borough Council became the first in Britain to scrap fixed Gatso cameras last Summer and has seen no noticeable difference in accidents since.
There are more than 4,000 fixed Gatso speed cameras currently in use across the UK – accounting for 90 per cent of all fixed speed cameras.
Gatsos cost approximately £20,000 to install but can cost up to £40,000 if located in a rural location as the system requires a 240 volt power supply.
“I checked my speedometer and I was doing just over 30mph.”
So he admits to speeding – he was in a 30MPH area. Fair enough if he wants to protest the fact that he wasn’t doing the 41MPH the camera says, and therefore the camera isn’t properly calibrated, but he has admitted to the offence and should therefore pay the speeding ticket.