At approx. 2:15pm on x, I was caught doing 57 mph somewhere in the 50mph limit for the road works between x (Westbound). I very probably was, but I consider that it was made necessary by what is evidently known as ‘duress of circumstance’.
The ironic thing is that I always try my best to obey speed limits in general, and especially so over this section of the x, as it is there for the protection of the workforce, who are doing the improvements to the central barriers and information signs.
My recollection of the events of that fateful journey is quite clear, as they were so exceptional.
As I came through junction x, it suddenly started to rain extremely heavily, which forced everyone else to slow down as well. At the top of the incline by the entry slip road, I found myself badly bunched in amongst other traffic.
We were nose to tail, in torrential rain, and still doing 40 to 50mph. I was in the middle of a motorway pile-up, which was looking for a time and place to happen. I feared for my safety and life.
Fortunately, I was in the middle lane and a check in the mirrors showed that the outside lane was clear. I signaled, moved into the outside lane and accelerated out of the hazard. This not only got me out of danger, but also it gave the driver behind me a car’s length of road.
This could have been the only place between junctions x and x, where I would have been doing 57mph. There is also a bridge, which would be a perfectly legitimate site for a camera.
I assure you that I then decelerated to back under 50mph. Not only did the weather conditions demand this, but also my destination required me to exit the motorway at junction x.
Since receiving the Notice of Intended Prosecution for this speeding allegation, I have re-evaluated those fateful couple of minutes over and over again. Faced with those same choices, I would do the same. I just hope that I am allowed to still feel able to.
Indeed, I have since discovered that my actions were not actually unlawful, as they were made under what is evidently called ‘duress of circumstances’.
According to Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences, 21st edition, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that such defences were available for offences such as these, but only… “where a defendant had committed an otherwise unlawful act to avoid imminent peril of danger to life or serious injury to himself or some other person for whom he was responsible.
The evil must be directed towards the defendant or some other person for whom he had responsibility and could be identified by reference to the action threatened. The evil to be prevented must be greater than the evil done… which should be no more than reasonably necessary to avoid the harm feared”.
My actions at the time seem to meet all of these totally reasonable criteria. Just like speeding is an absolute offence (just 1mph over is an offence), ‘duress of circumstance’ is also an absolute defence (you have not committed an offence).
The NIP was delivered well within time. I have returned the S172 form, advising that I was driving the car at the time, as I do not dispute any of the facts of the matter.
I have been offered one of these so-called ‘Speed Awareness Courses’.
Now, I suspect that most of you would consider this a good outcome. However, I have serious problems with this. Firstly, I consider that this is little more than an admission of guilt with a 3 year suspended sentence.
Also, assuming that the course is run properly, it should be impossible for me to show sufficient improvement to pass the test. I am already fully aware of my speed, and its potential consequences.
As a child, I ran out between two parked cars and was hit by a moving car. Mercifully, he wasn’t speeding. However, I still remember the feel of the impact on my right hip and watching the trees fly past as I slid along the road on my back. I still remember him driving me to the local doctor’s surgery, and looking at my left elbow and seeing my bones.
Then it started to hurt, but the doctor filled me with enough painkiller to fell a charging rhino. I also still have the scar tissue on my left elbow, and it still aches from time to time, even after 48 years. God help the course tutor, if he tries to lecture me on child road safety. Unless he has suffered the same, he simply does not have the right.
Anyway, all of this is academic: I’m innocent. And even if I was guilty, I’m innocent until proven guilty.
I therefore feel that it is impossible for me to accept either the offer of the course or any fixed penalty.
I am prepared to fight to maintain my innocence for as long and as far as is necessary. Yes, I have nothing better to do with my time or to spend my money on. I am currently going through a divorce, so I not only already have a solicitor but also whatever it costs me, the ‘ex-wife-to-be’ can’t get.
Ideally, I would like to persuade Heddlu Gwent Police, or whoever makes these decisions, to accept that continuing with the prosecution, for just 1mph over the threshold between a caution and a FPN/SAC would be a waste of time and money.
Well, that’s it. I feel a lot better now. It has been useful, just getting everything down in writing. This could be the basis of a good letter of mitigation. I presume the system still allows you to send ‘them’ one.
I await your ‘judgements’ with interest.
Yours is my email of the year! Lovely to read.
I don’t get many emails that make me smile/chuckle as I read them, but yours did. I hasten to add that I was not smiling at your misfortune or your accident as a child – but more the lovely way that you have expressed yourself and your application of the defence of duress of circumstance.
It’s nice to hear from someone that has really thought about their case/argument before coming to me.
The key to your defence will be convincing the court that you had not choice (in the interests of avoiding an immediate threat) but to pull out and speed up.
The court may suggest that you should have simply slowed right down to create a gap between you and the car in front – thereby reducing the risk of a “pile up” – at least in terms of you hitting the car in front after being hit by the car behind!
The court may agree that you were right to pull out into the outside lane (in a split second decision – without time to decelerate) but that you should then have maintained 50 mph having removed yourself from imminent danger.
I suppose your response would be that if the left hand lane full of traffic had crashed the cars would have spilled out in to the right hand lane – thereby again putting you at the same risk!
Let’s have a chat about this matter and see whether or not we come up with the best course of action going forward I agree representations to the police is a good idea but they may worry about opening the floodgates – pardon the pun – if they let this one go.