The Echo today claims an exclusive here:
HUNDREDS of thousands of motorists in Essex could have speeding convictions quashed because of a serious blunder by police.
A member of staff hired by Essex Police to issue fines and prosecution letters to motorists across the county may have been doing so without the necessary legal authorisation.
It means the police could face compensation claims of as much as ?50million from drivers issued with fixed penalty notices over the past four years.
The error may affect every fixed penalty notice issued to drivers caught speeding by fixed and mobile speed cameras, as well as the average speed cameras recently installed on the A127 between Basildon and Southend.
The Daily Telegraph this evening follows it up:
Tens of thousands of motorists could have their speeding offences overturned because of a procedural blunder by Essex police.
The error, which has led to an inquiry involving both the force and local Crown Prosecution Service, could cost the police more than ?1 million.
It involves what is known as a “section 20 letter” which was sent to motorists summoned to court for speeding and red light offences.
It has been claimed that the civilian worker whose signature appears on the letter had not been given formal authority by Roger Baker, the Chief Constable.
Should the letter prove to be defective, the police could face a flood of claims from motorists who were convicted by magistrates since March 2007.
It would not apply to those motorists who were dealt with by post and paid the fine on receiving a Notice of Intended Prosecution by the police. Drivers who went on speed awareness courses would also not be covered.
Around 200,000 motorists a year are fined for speeding by Essex Police, which has 101 cameras in the county. According to recent statistics from the Ministry of Justice, around nine per cent of such cases are dealt with by the courts.
“We are investigating allegations of a procedural error relating to certain offences of exceeding the speed limit,” a force spokesman said.
“We are liaising with the CPS to establish whether there is an issue and, if so, the extent of that error.”