Speeding Offences via Telematic Devices

We were recently instructed by the Police Federation to make observations in a case whereby one of the Police Officers they represented was being tried for a number of speeding offences following a public complaint over the speed of a marked police vehicle and the subsequent data held on the telematics box that was fitted to the police vehicle at the time the observation was made.

Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 s.89 a person charged with an offence of excess speed cannot be convicted solely on the opinion evidence of a single witness. In this case there was the eye witness and the telematics data.

A number of devices used for speed detection are classed as home office approved which means they have been tested and deemed accurate (so long as calibrated) in detecting speeding offences. Interestingly there are no telematic devices listed in the current list however this does not preclude a telematics device being used as a source of one of the pieces of evidence. However, in order to do so a series of tests and checks need to be carried out in order to ensure the accuracy of such devices at the time of the offences have alleged to have taken place.

There are hundreds and if not thousands of third party telematic devices on the market in 2018 and each one albeit will be manufactured in a similar way and essentially do the same thing to varying degrees will be different in how the data is interpreted and what software and algorithms are set to compute the data back at a host server. Whilst many of the manufacturers will quote accuracy to a high level of detail (a selling point and must in this industry) other factors need to be taken into consideration when the device is working in the conditions as they were at the time of the alleged offences.

Many Telematic devices rely on GPS signals which can then be used to generate the data and work out a speed for the device (vehicle). The reliance of GPS data in any investigation could be a blog on its own but to highlight the point it should never be treated on face value without making a number of investigations and checks with appropriately qualified experts in how it was operating at the time and in what area the device was operating, the topography of an area and the layout of an area (open fields versus a busy town with high buildings) can have an effect on GPS readings not to mention whether the satellites used at the time of the offences were working correctly with no logged faults.

In our observations of the case presented to us we felt that there were insufficient investigations carried out to be certain that corroboration was considered appropriately. No checks were made of the member of publics vehicle to ensure their vehicle’s speedometer was working correctly which was being relied upon by the witness to form the opinion the police vehicle was speeding.

No tests were carried out at the time the offences were discovered against a calibrated device to ensure the telematics box on the police vehicle was accurate at that time, reliance was placed on statements from the manufacturers of the telematics box just to say it was manufactured to an accurate standard (They are unlikely to say any different). The vehicle was subsequently checked against a known accurate and calibrated device some months later (seven) by the investigators however testing was carried out in a totally different area to where the offences took place (failing to consider the topography of the area of the offences and how this could have affected the functioning of the box in that area). No material was produced to say what changes had taken place with the vehicle since the time of the offences and what changes in the way the telematics system worked had taken place between the offences and the testing such as software updates which may have affected how the test data differed from the data at the times of the offences.

If you are going to make these sorts of efforts to test something then it should be done as near to the time as possible and in as near to the circumstances of the incident as possible to mitigate any of the problems highlighted.

Additionally, no account was taken of other investigative material’s timing sources and their accuracy (CCTV), so timelines could not be put together with any accuracy and no degree of certainty could be placed on the accurate time on the telematics box casting further doubt on its accurate function at the time of the offences. Documenting timing differences to that of a known source such as the speaking clock when recovering evidence is often overlooked by investigators which can lead to issues further down the investigation.

As a result of making these observations along with the fact that at some points the speeds were recorded at a time the witness was no longer present (losing the corroboration requirement) the defendant was acquitted for a number of offences.

If Telematics devices are to be used for speeding offences then there are ways to do it and in this case the investigation fell short of taking all necessary precautions to ensure the data was accurate and could be relied upon beyond all reasonable doubt. If you are carrying out this type of investigation then many considerations need to be taken. For further information on this subject please feel free to make contact for advice.