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BANNED BY THE POLICE, LASER GUN THAT LED TO UNFAIR SPEEDING FINES

 

By Jo Macfarlane - Daily Express - Thursday, October 11, 2007

LASER guns that may have helped to wrongly convict thousands of motorists have been shelved by a police force.

The move could call into question their use to trap speeding drivers right across the country [England] amid fears that they give false readings.

Kent Police has told officers not to use the hand-held speed detectors with immediate effect after a court found "problems" in the way one of the machines was calibrated.

The leaked police memo, sent on October 4, also advised traffic officers not to issue fixed penalty notices or summonses based on evidence from the devices.

The implication is that the laser guns, which are calibrated annually, have failed to meet minimum legal requirements. It could be a huge embarrassment for the Home Office, which has always insisted the devices are "robust and accurate".

Thousands of drivers in Kent alone may have been convicted in court, or paid fixed penalties, based on false evidence. And if other LTI 20/20 devices in use across the country are found to be faulty, millions of drivers may have received wrongful fines and penalty points.

Some may have lost their jobs as a result. The memo, sent to officers in South Kent and signed off by roads policing officer Phil Sharp, said: "Following a court case at Folkestone yesterday and in liaison with the Criminal Justice Unit (traffic) a review of speed enforcement policy is to be made regarding the use of all laser speed guns in South Kent.

"Pending this review, no further FPNs (fixed penalty notices) or summons should be issued. I hope this review will be completed within two weeks and I will notify any changes in policy required before any further enforcement takes place."

Critics said the decision could lead to thousands of motorists being given "substantial" compensation if it is found that they have been wrongfully convicted.

They called for the devices to be scrapped completely. Paul Smith, founder of Safe Speed, said: "We demand that Kent Police immediately contact those wrongfully convicted and refund them and remove points from their driving licences.

Nothing less will do. Anyone who has lost their job or otherwise suffered as a result of an erroneous conviction will be entitled to substantial compensation."

The laser devices have always courted controversy over whether they are accurate. Independent tests have previously revealed that the guns could give false readings if they are not set up correctly.

Inspector Geoff Wood, of Kent Police, said: "There is no problem with the use of laser guns. The court case revolved around a technical calibration issue which is being resolved. Police in the South Kent area are to recalibrate their laser speed guns."

A spokeswoman would not give details of the court case that prompted the ban.