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Handheld speed guns temporarily withdrawn in South Australia

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South Australia Police have temporarily stopped using handheld speed detection laser guns because of legal issues over their use.

As a result, the Police Force has invited anyone who has received a laser-issued expiation notice, that remains unpaid, to contact police and apply for a review.

SAPOL will also abandon 125 prosecutions currently before the courts.

The decision comes after ongoing legal issues with the evidentiary certificates used to prove the accuracy of the Lidar speed guns which saw several motorists successfully challenge speeding fines where a Lidar device was used.

The use of the evidentiary certificates was first challenged in the Adelaide Magistrates Court in 2016, where a man charged with driving at 102 km/h in a 50km/h zone had the charges against him dismissed.

How are the Lidars tested by police?

The Lidars used by police must be tested to ensure their accuracy. The devices must be tested twice daily, both before and after each shift. These daily tests are recorded simply as pass or fail. The guns must be also be calibrated once every 12 months according to Australian Standards. This calibration confirms that the guns are accurate within the approved margin of error range of +2/-3 kph.

Where the annual calibration has been completed, and the device has been tested on the day by the police officer, a senior officer can sign a certificate of accuracy confirming that the Lidar device was accurate.

While the necessary steps, according to law, had been completed in this case, Counsel for the motorist argued that these certificates should not be relied upon.

On what basis were the charges dismissed?

Counsel reasoned that the testing done by the police officers on the day of the offence could not show that the Lidar was accurate within the approved margin of error range. This is because the daily testing completed by the police officers did not prove the accuracy of the device in accordance with the certificate’s margin of error of +2/-3 kph. Only the annual calibration test could prove this.

The Magistrate agreed. The police were subsequently unable to rely on the certificate as evidence, meaning there was no evidence of the accuracy of the device. Without this, police were unable to prove the speed of the vehicle. The charges against the motorist were subsequently dismissed. 

The police then appealed to the Supreme Court; however their appeal was dismissed, with the Supreme Court agreeing with the Magistrate’s decision.

This decision has subsequently been upheld in three separate Supreme Court judgments delivered earlier this year.

The Court held it was not necessary for the motorists to prove that the speed gun was inaccurate to the margin of error specified, rather, the motorists need only prove that the daily testing by the police did not show that the Lidar was accurate to the extent displayed on the certificate.

What does this mean for motorists who have been issued with an expiation notice from a handheld speed gun?

While the Supreme Court did not proclaim that the Lidar devices are inaccurate, the fact remains that police are unable to prove their accuracy to the extent required by the certificates.

It seems a wise decision by SAPOL to remove these devices from use until legislation can be amended to resolve these issues.

If you have any questions on this topic or have recently been issued with an expiation notice for speeding, contact Nes Alexandropoulos to discuss what options you have available. 

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Get in touch with today's blog writer :
Julia Arena 

Solicitor in Personal Injury

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to South Australian legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.