• Speed Camera Appeal Reveals a European's True Rights

    If they both weren't so arrogant and difficult, Idris Francis and Gerard O'Halloran could have been national heroes.

    The retired petrol heads have fought a long battle to have their convictions for speeding overturned, based on the philosophy that signing a release form confirming who was driving a speeding vehicle breaches a citizen's 'right to silence.'

    And they're absolutely right. In the UK, if a Gatso camera catches you breaking the speed limit, you are required to sign a statement confirming that you were behind the wheel of the car. That's plain and simple self-incrimination if I ever saw it, which breaches the whole "you have the right to remain silent" spiel.

    However, the European Court of Human Rights revealed the truth about this perceived 'right to silence.'

    Their statement was: "The court did not accept the applicants' argument that the right to remain silent and the right not to incriminate oneself were absolute rights."

    Translation: There is no right to silence. No Fifth Amendment for us Europeans.

    In fact, we already knew this, didn't we? A few years ago the mantra a police officer repeats as he's arresting somebody was changed so that a suspect's right to remain silent could actually be used in court to infer guilt.

    As far as this legal battle goes - if Idris Francis and Gerard O'Halloran had been fighting for something slightly more significant than their right to break the speed limit, perhaps this insight into what rights a European Citizen has might have made more of an impact on people.

    As quite often happens, a case in America is mirroring the one in Europe. Larry Lemay (yes, that is his real name) is suing the New Hampshire Department of Transport for the speed limits in his area to be raised, claiming that they're set unfairly low.

    He has suggested that speed limits aren't there to encourage safer driving - merely to help raise money for the Police Department in the form of fines. This accusation is the same one often aimed at Britain's Gatso cameras, which generate about 21 million pounds of revenue every year (about the same as American Idol star Simon Cowell pays in income tax in the UK.)

    Whether there's any truth in the accusation, I couldn't tell you. When I was working on advertising with the Hampshire County Council Road Safety Department, however, I was told that the 30 mph limit was not intended to prevent accidents OR raise revenue.

    Whether the limit is 30, 40 or even 50, there might only ever be the same number of accidents on a stretch of road. However somebody hit at 30mph has an 80% chance of survival. At 40mph, that becomes a 80% chance of fatality.

    So even if higher speed limits might not cause more accidents, it's entirely reasonable to assume that they might cause more severe injuries in those involved.


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