The Summons arrives

Note: This post refers to the incident that took place in February where I was fined for walking my bike over a junction while the traffic light was red. 

I’ve finally received my Summons from the Court. There are several things I’m learning about the justice system in even this most insignificant of cases:

  1.       Being not guilty can be expensive

Had I, in the first instance acquiesced to the police officer and paid the fine, it would have cost me £30. The letter I have just received says,

If you plead guilty the prosecution will apply to the court for an order that you pay a contribution of £80 towards their costs. If you plead not guilty or do not enter a plea, and you are convicted of the offence, the sum applied for may be higher.

This open-ended figure is slightly worrying, as the case does come down to my word against the police officer’s. I wonder if I can claim the cost of the time I will have to take off work if I win.

The amusing thing is that it is to an extent understandable to provide financial incentives at every stage for potential defendants to opt out of a hearing to save the court time. But the letter specifically says, Nothing stated here is intended to persuade you to plead guilty. Riiiight

2.       The police lie

I will quote exactly what the police have said once the case is over. At the moment, though, I suspect I am already on shaky legal ground just talking about this while it is happening. All I will say is that the police officer’s version of events differs significantly from my own.

3.       The system is incredibly difficult to navigate

Initially, I sent a letter to the police, raising a number of points. In response I simply received a letter saying I would be given a court date, which did not acknowledge any of the points that I had made (nor has any subsequent letter).

In the letter that I received today, there is a section where the “witness statements” are presented to me. This only consists of the police officer’s statement, and there is no mention of my written response. I have no idea if the court have seen my letter to the police (though I suspect not). I also have no idea how I am expected to present evidence to the court. Do I reply to their letter with my statement about what occurred? Do I just turn up on the day? Is there another process? Who knows?! There are plenty of instructions about how and why to plead guilty, where I can enter mitigating circumstances and so on, but on how to plead not guilty the letter is mysteriously silent.

4.      I need to work on my first impressions.

I am described by the officer as, of slim to proportionate build and 1.8m tall. The man [i.e. me] had long dark hair, was wearing a long, dark overcoat and was white with a sallow complexion.

After a description like that in the City, I’d be surprised if the judge doesn’t feel he can finally close the file on Jack the Ripper.

In any case, I will be pleading not guilty, forwarding the court my initial letter to the police as well as my objections to the police officer’s witness statement. If anyone has any advice on anything else I should do, or thinks I’m doing something wrong, please let me know!

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6 Responses to “The Summons arrives”

  1. stabiliser Says:

    Good luck.

    Hopefully at the very least your case will persuade the plod in question to think twice about chucking out penalty charge notices without any foundation.

  2. Joe Dunckley Says:

    Good luck.

    I don’t know if this will help you at all? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHtCNhABlLw&NR=1

  3. Chas Says:

    I was issued an FPN on Chelsea Bridge by a group of PCSO’s who come over from Westminster to mug people who ride slowly on the pavement by the river. This has been a right of way for over fifty years and the alternativ on the road is very dangerous. Only slow cyclists going from and to the park use it. But these PCSOs stand there giving out hundreds of tickets because it is easy for them to trap you. Nowhere to escape!

    So, fine maybe they changed the law (they didn’t), maybe these PCSOs have the right to work outside their area (they don’t), maybe they should ticket every mother with her kids (they shouldn’t) – but I was even cycling. I’d pushed my bike over from where I’d been sitting on the bridge. I had cycled ten yards or so past the little sign, but that was well over 200 metres away! Was I cycling dangerously? Was I cycling?

    It makes me so cross that they do this. The neighbourhood watch doesn’t meet any longer so they make up any old nonsense about “lots of complaints”. So, here I have the FPN. Hundreds of people have just accepted it. Should I? I don’t bloody want to. Extra costs be damned. Why do they make justice so damned expensive?

    Their impunity must come to a stop. It is our responsibility as citizens to fight this rot.

    • JonF Says:

      Chas, you might find this article to your benefit.

      http://www.bikehub.co.uk/featured-articles/cycling-and-the-law/

      specifically

      On 1st August 1999, new legislation came into force to allow a fixed penalty notice to be served on anyone who is guilty of cycling on a footway. However the Home Office issued guidance on how the new legislation should be applied, indicating that they should ONLY be used where a cyclist is riding in a manner that may endanger others.

  4. Chas Says:

    Thanks for that. I find it so irritating that they can’t be bothered to deal with dangerous cyclists, motorists and criminals but spend their time harassing ordinary people living quiet lives in the community. Not exactly ‘community support’.

    I’m going to challenge it. It might be expensive, but I think it’s worthwhile. Impunity is a disease in the body politic and something has to be done.

  5. Chas Says:

    I don’t know if your case was discharged. Mine was. It was withdrawn just as I got to the court. The case was held in Kew ten miles away, so it was a considerable journey.

    The rotten trick of it is that because they withdraw it just before it is heard you do not get the opportunity to ask for costs. If this happens to anyone else, please be aware that you should ask for a “schedule of costs” before leaving. Ask the Clerk of the court, he will be the person responsible. If you get into court and the case is dismissed – simply say “what about my costs?” I did not know this at the time.

    The question for me is how to stop the PCSO’s from Westminster giving out what appear to me to be illegal fines in Kensington and Chelsea.

    They should know very well that it is an inappropriate place to give fines. The markings forbidding cycle on the bridge path contradict the Traffic Signs, Road Markings and Direction 1993 (something like that). The red bordered bicycle in a circle is NOT acceptable. This shows an area which has been forbad by byelaw. In the case of Chelsea Bridge it should read “CYCLE LANE ENDS” and “CYCLISTS DISMOUNT”.

    There is a shared use cycle lane at each of the bridge so the end of this lane MUST be indicated correctly. It is not enough that a ‘reasonable person’ might know that the red bordered bicycle in a circle is against cycling. You can’t just stick up that sign and say that that is reasonable indication. Legally this is so.

    Of course TFL does that all over London, because they do as they chose. The new ‘Cycling Superhighways’ are especially bad.

    The PCSO’s do as they chose also. Which really is the issue. The appearance is given that false fines are knowingly distributed. I was told by them that they have given out ‘hundreds’.

    Why? Well, I would suggest that the £30 is less than the cost of challenging. It is less than the cost of research, photocopying, photographs and transport. Not to mention time.

    So, who challenges? Who tries to stop the petty wrongdoing?

    The PCSO in question did not seem to turn up to court by the start of the day. If you do not turn up, or the otherside does not turn up – then they automatically lose.

    I must gather that because the PCSO did not turn up he knew that the fine would be quashed. However, I was not telephoned before hand – so if I had failed to arrive I would have still had to pay. Upto £500 + costs.

    What about my costs? Later on I phoned for a statement from the court that I had won my case. It would cost £60 and I would have to ask a different court authority. You see Brentford Magistrates Court was being transferred to Brent Authority from The West London Authority on that very day. Apparently.

    How am I supposed to pursue my complaint to the Westminster Police without proof of my righteousness?

    Ha! Who cares? These events are only as appears to me, if anyone can inform me better of the workings of our government I will gladly recant any or all of this statement.

    I will continue in this, calmly, it is important to stand up for what you think is right. I would urge you onwards, also. There are many issues which need attention on our roads.

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