Speed camera fine makes driver see red

by Alastair Sloane

A British motorist jailed because he refused to pay a 60 ($148) speeding fine is to give evidence in the European Court of Human Rights to help to prove speed cameras are there only to raise cash.

Ernest Harbon, 62, a painter and decorator, was caught doing 61km/h in a 50km/h zone. He went to traffic court to fight it. He said it was an open stretch of country road and he assumed the limit to be 65km/h. He refused the pay the fine.

He was sentenced to 14 days in jail, handcuffed, put in a holding cell with a fellow charged with self-mutilation, and sent to Leicester prison, where he became prisoner number JH7915.

Harbon's first night was spent locked in a cell with a male prostitute. Breakfast the next morning made him ill. He was taken to the prison doctor, who asked him what he was in for.

"I'm making a stand against speed cameras," Harbon said.

The doctor shook his hand. So did other prison staff as the word got round.

Harbon was released after seven days for good behaviour. Wardens and inmates cheered as he departed.

But since leaving prison he has suffered from severe depression and anxiety attacks and has twice been admitted to hospital.

The British Government has revoked his driving licence because he refuses to admit his crime.

He says the hidden mobile speed camera was illegally placed and no speed limit signs were visible. But he cannot afford to prove his case. He has no licence and no job.

Harbon has received thousands of letters of support, including help from a company campaigning to stop the British Government's planned ban on radar detectors.

Car Parts Direct sells radar detectors and cites independent research claiming that a motorist with a detector is 28 per cent less likely to have an accident. The company caused a ruckus in British political circles when it claimed its latest model could detect the latest speed cameras. It said the device was so good that motorists using it would have their speeding fine paid if they received a ticket while the unit was fitted.

Company chief Mark Cornwall said: "The Government loves easy money from the motorist. Ernest had no chance. The Government wants to catch and fine motorists - it's not about slowing them down."

Cornwall said that more than 15,000 motorists were in prison in Britain for various motoring offences - "yet only 10,178 housebreakers are under lock and key".

"Speed camera revenue was around 112 million [$293 million] last year and still rising. A 60 [$157] speeding ticket is issued about every 15 seconds. At the last count, 286,186 motorists had their driving licences taken away - most due to the speed camera points system."

Says Harbon: "When I get my licence back I will not drive without a radar detector. It's easy to slip over the limit. It has wrecked my life."

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