Speed limit - thousands unjustly hit

MORE than 50,000 drivers could have been wrongly punished for breaking speed limits in Suffolk, a pressure group has claimed.The Association of British Drivers (ABD) is considering whether to file a lawsuit to "obtain justice" for motorists who have been penalised by limits that it claimed "have no legal force".

MORE than 50,000 drivers could have been wrongly punished for breaking speed limits in Suffolk, a pressure group has claimed.

The Association of British Drivers (ABD) is considering whether to file a lawsuit to "obtain justice" for motorists who have been penalised by limits that it claimed "have no legal force".

Suffolk police are unable to prosecute offending motorists in some 30mph zones across the county – thought to be as many as 37 – due to "legal technicalities".

Richard Spring, the Conservative MP for West Suffolk, has already written to Transport Secretary Alistair Darling to urge him to sort the situation and stop speeding drivers escaping punishment.

But Malcolm Heymer, of the ABD, claimed thousands of drivers had been illegally punished for speeding in the unenforceable zones since Suffolk County Council introduced the limits in the mid-1990s.

"The ABD estimates that at least 50,000 drivers have been convicted of exceeding speed limits that we believe have no legal force," he said.

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"Consequently, we are exploring the possibility of bringing a class action to obtain justice for those who have been wrongfully fined and had their licenses endorsed.

"If the ABD is proved correct, not only will all those drivers who have been illegally prosecuted be eligible for compensation, but the county council will have to make new speed limit orders from scratch."

Suffolk County Council introduced 30mph speed zones through all of its villages between 1994 and 1996.

But the ABD claimed there had been a "major error" in the way the council introduced speed limits on roads without street lighting.

"We believe that the result of this error is that most, if not all, such speed limits in the county do not legally exist," said Mr Heymer.

Alan Howe, from Burgh, near Woodbridge, had a £40 speeding ticket overturned in 2000 after he drove through a speed limit in Melton that was found to be unenforceable.

Suffolk police speed enforcement officer Pc Mike Rayner criticised Suffolk County Council earlier this year over the problem, which means speed traps at 37 sites in Suffolk cannot be used successfully.

Police have since uncovered inconsistencies in sections of the Road Traffic Regulation Act, making it virtually impossible to monitor speeding and enforce the 30mph limits through many Suffolk villages.

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