Driver who flashed others to warn of police speed trap is fined £175.

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Driver, 64, who flashed headlights to warn fellow motorists of speed trap hauled to court and fined for 'obstructing police'




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Michael Thompson believed he was doing his 'civic duty' by alerting drivers on the opposite side of a dual carriageway. He is seen here outside Grimsby Magistrates Court at an earlier hearing

A driver has been convicted of a criminal offence for flashing his headlights at oncoming motorists to warn them of a police speed trap ahead.
Michael Thompson, 64, believed he was doing his ‘civic duty’ by alerting drivers on the opposite side of a dual carriageway.
When stopped by a police officer Thompson disagreed with the suggestion that he was ‘perverting the course of justice’ and was then allegedly told: ’I was going to let you off with a caution - but I’m not now.’
Thompson denied wilfully obstructing a policewoman in the execution of her duty on July 21 last year, but was convicted after a trial at Grimsby Magistrates' Court.
He ended up £440 out of pocket after being fined £175, ordered to pay £250 costs and a £15 victims’ surcharge.
Thompson of Grimsby, north-east Lincolnshire, told the court he was warning motorists for safety reasons.
He said he had been involved in an accident a year ago when two drivers in front of him braked sharply after seeing a speed trap and although he braked in time another motorist crashed into the back of his vehicle.
‘It is not an offence to warn people of a possible speed trap because of the danger involved with vehicles braking quite hard,’ he claimed.
‘It’s a civic duty to warn people. I flashed my lights. I had a very good reason to warn oncoming motorists, in my opinion. My first thought was:”This may cause an accident.”

'I tried to warn vehicles that there was a speed trap. Because I challenged the officer he would not let me off with a warning.’
Thompson was pulled up as he headed out of Grimsby on the A46 at 10am. He claimed the officer involved was a ‘Rambo character’ who was acting like ‘Judge Dredd’ in using the law unnecessarily.

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Thompson was pulled up as he headed out of Grimsby on the A46 at 10am. He claimed the officer involved was a 'Rambo character' who was acting like 'Judge Dredd' in using the law unnecessarily. The officer pictured here is using a speed gun on the A130 in Essex


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The stretch of road outside of Grimsby where Thompson was pulled over. He denied wilfully obstructing a policewoman in the execution of her duty on July 21 last year, but was convicted after a trial and ended up £440 out of pocket
The trial took a morning of court time and three officers were involved in giving evidence for the case.



One solicitor at court criticised the decision to prosecute as a ‘ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money’ and said the defendant, who represented himself, should be praised for his actions.
Defending the decision to prosecute, a spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: 'Cost is not a consideration in our decision to prosecute.



FROM NOT GETTING A SALUTE TO GPS WARNING SYSTEMS - A HISTORY OF AVOIDING SPEED TRAPS


The history of speed trap evasion dates back more than a century.
Helping motorists to avoid speeding fines was one of the main reasons for the Automobile Association being formed in 1905 - a year after speeding fines and endorsements were introduced into UK law.


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The AA's first patrolmen used bicycles to patrol the streets and warn motorists of police speed traps.
In 1910 a test case established that a patrolman signalling a driver to reduce speed in order to avoid a police speed trap was obstructing an officer.
The AA then developed a coded warning system that lasted until the 1960s. A patrolman (pictured) would salute the driver of a car displaying an AA badge, except in the presence of an approaching speed trap.
This warned the driver to reduce their speed in a way that could never be prosecuted by a court.
When radar detectors came into use in recent times they were thought to be banned under the 1949 Wireless and Telegraphy. But a High Court ruling in 1998 established that devices for detecting radar speed traps were lawful as they did not intercept a 'message'.
The Road Safety Act which became law in 2006 was intended to clarify the law. It made clear that GPS-based speed trap warning systems were legal as they warned drivers of published camera sites and posted speed limits.
According to the AA, regulations under the act that would enable the Government to ban other radar detecting devices have not so far been enforced, although few such devices are currently on the market.


'When a file is provided to the CPS from the police, it is our duty to decide whether it presents a realistic prospect of conviction and whether a prosecution is in the public interest.

'In accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors a prosecution was deemed appropriate.'
Prosecutor John Owston told Thompson he was not trying to avoid an accident occurring. He said: ’You were doing it to warn them of a speed trap because as a motorist you don’t want other motorists to be caught speeding. You wanted to make sure that people who were speeding slowed down.’
Mr Owston added: ’The natural reaction of most drivers in those circumstances would be to brake. Your first reaction would be that there is some sort of hazard ahead and I will approach it at a lower speed.
‘You are causing people to brake to avoid going through a speed trap at an excessive speed and all it does then is allow people, when they are past it , to pick up speed again and speed on.
‘It’s not the speed trap that causes the accident it’s the idiot behind the wheel who brakes heavily that causes the accident.’
Magistrates rejected Thompson’s defence.
Presiding magistrate Jean Ellerton told him: ’We found that your flashing of your headlights was an obstruction, we found that you knew this action would cause vehicles to slow down and cause other motorists to avoid the speed trap and avoid prosecution.’
Thompson, a married man who is now semi-retired, said he was ‘disgusted’ with the verdict and intended to appeal.
He said: ’It’s a sad day for justice because the law is being abused. I flashed a vehicle for a good reason in the interests of safety.’
The offence of obstructing a police officer carries a maximum sentence of one month’s imprisonment and/or a £1,000 fine.
Andrew Howard, the Automobile Association’s head of road safety, said: ’It’s an unusual case, but I have heard of this happening before. There are lots of people who are not aware of this law.’
Mr Howard said ‘a lot of people would be upset’ to be prosecuted for such an offence.
Solicitor Anton Balkitis, a specialist in motoring law, said most motorists who flash at other drivers to warn them of a speed trap ‘think they are doing people a favour’.
‘It does seem somewhat ironic that they are actually encouraging people, by flashing their lights, to drive in a safe manner and yet to be prosecuted for that seems somewhat at odds with the purposes of the legislation,’ he said.
‘But it is an offence of obstruction and people do get taken to court for it so perhaps people need to be made aware of it.’
 

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I always flashh my lights if I see a police trap.

Its ones civic duty and an essential part of Britishness to look out for your fellow tax paying road user.
 

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I sort of agree. Most people will also flash their lights to let someone out,which is wrong as flashing is meant to alert other road users to your presence. So technically I'm sure they could have done him just for flashing his lights for no reason.
What if he was at the side of the road with a sign saying speed trap,would that be wrong too? We shouldn't be speeding in the first place so if we caught caught I think it's fair enough. This just seems like they are more peeved that he is stopping extra money coming to them rather than obstructing justice. Does this mean that speed camera signs should be torn down? I'd say I'm pro police generally,I'm just not sure when it involves money. Maybe harsher points would be better,you'd think more about getting 9 points for 100mph than you would a £1000 fine.
 

MOCAŠ

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What if he was at the side of the road with a sign saying speed trap,would that be wrong too?

Ah, that would be the Tuf-Tuf Club...

(Fast forward to 4:30 if you don't want to wade through the preamble.)

[YOUTUBE]aoT_PHNA6tI[/YOUTUBE]
 

Frankie

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I don't agree with taking photos of the police but I agree with the sign. Surely the police randomly putting up temporary signs themselves would do the trick and slow people down.
 

PhilJ

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I got fined for this years ago too, b@stard's! Argued with them for a good while, which probably got me the fine in the first place. Wasn't giving in though!
 

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I don't condone speeding in any way, but surely you are helping to keep speeds down by flashing other cars?
After all, as the police themselves say - they give us all the information - letting us know where mobile speed traps are going to be that day via their websites, they put up both fixed and mobile warnings.

So I for one am more than happy to assist the police by letting my fellow motorists know that there are speed traps in the vicinity, and remind them to keep their speed down.
 

bpsorrel

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This is common practice in Russia. Very useful service, couple of flashes to let you know there's a Police speed trap hiding just round the corner! :) All for it myself!
 

crockers

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What an utter waste of taxpayers money. When we are seeing the most savage cuts in living memory it's disgusting to see money wasted on this. Try telling all the victims of crime that the reason why there are no police officers to answer their cries of help is because they are in court as witnesses to the heinous crime of ........... Flashing their lights.
 

nickcc101

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I sort of agree. Most people will also flash their lights to let someone out,which is wrong as flashing is meant to alert other road users to your presence. So technically I'm sure they could have done him just for flashing his lights for no reason.
What if he was at the side of the road with a sign saying speed trap,would that be wrong too? We shouldn't be speeding in the first place so if we caught caught I think it's fair enough. This just seems like they are more peeved that he is stopping extra money coming to them rather than obstructing justice. Does this mean that speed camera signs should be torn down? I'd say I'm pro police generally,I'm just not sure when it involves money. Maybe harsher points would be better,you'd think more about getting 9 points for 100mph than you would a £1000 fine.

Back in the late sixties a friend of mine used to place a sign at the front of his house when the Police set up a mobile speed trap close by (austin gypsy with a long pole sticking out the back) warning passing motorists, Police removed the sign and prosecuted him. Wish the sign had been there a few months earlier as I would not have been caught doing 54 in a 30 area, Oh the foolishness of youth :)
 
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Haven't bikers being doing this for years? ;)
Seriously, it's incidents like this that further alienate the public from an already detached from society police force. :crazy:
 

wemorgan

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Did the driver defend himself in court? As it does sound if he had a good counseler he could have argued a better case that he was improving safety.
 
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Was mentioned on the BBC this morning that there were " circumstances" where the old boy argued the toss with the policemen [ not a wise move by the roadside ]who then said " I was going to caution you but because of your attitude I am going to charge you instead! However, Quentin Wilson I think it was, sited a test case a few years back where the motorist was found not guilty by reason of the fact he could not have known the other motorists he warned were speeding as he had no means of accurately measuring their speed. This might form the basis of an appeal in this case should Michael Thompson chose to use it.
 

cazyp

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This Country has gone bloody mad. Waste of tax payers money.
So it's legal for councils to erect signs to warn of speed cameras but illegal for fellow motorists to warn of speed cameras?

''You are causing people to brake to avoid going through a speed trap at an excessive speed'' the prosecution said.

Surely any reasonable person would have seen this as Mr Thompson helping to prevent the commision of an offence...

The purpose of these cameras are meant to be for 'safety' surely? If Mr Thompson was helping slow motorists then the outcome of the prosecution further confirms catching speeders is all about the revenue.
 

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MOCAŠ

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It is little more than bullying of the general public. Who the F do they think they are? "I was going to caution you but if that is your attitude" When freedom of speech is the first casualty in a discussion with the plod how can we respect them?

I think it's well understood that the way in which the police handle a stop is heavily influenced by the way those who have been stopped behave towards them. If the motorist shows an understanding of why he has been stopped, and the police are happy that he has taken on board what they have said to him, he will usually be treated more leniently. This has certainly been my experience.

However, in doing so, they are extending the driver a concession. They could opt for a zero tolerance policy and just come down on everyone like a ton of bricks, but that would not be conducive to maintiaining a good relationship with the public.

PS: report in today's Metro: the police are to be given 'politeness training' by John Lewis. :)
 
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Mercy1

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This is a diabolical travesty. If it's lawful for the authorities to put up signs all over the country warning of speed cameras then how can it be unlawful for ordinary people to warn drivers of speed traps?
The authorities cannot even bring themselves to use the term "speed traps" - they call them safety cameras, ie to encourage people to drive within the limit. That's all a driver is doing if he flashes a warning.
 

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