Skip to content

Are roadworks speeding fines legal?

Every year thousands of UK motorists are fined or being found guilty of speeding through roadworks. Typically, lower speed limits have been introduced to coincide with the work going on and are only in force for the duration of these works. The premise of the law is perfectly reasonable. It acknowledges that the roadworks often present difficult driving conditions to motorists and that workers are often exposed to fast moving cars.

Every year thousands of UK motorists are fined or being found guilty of speeding through roadworks. Typically, lower speed limits have been introduced to coincide with the work going on and are only in force for the duration of these works. The premise of the law is perfectly reasonable. It acknowledges that the roadworks often present difficult driving conditions to motorists and that workers are often exposed to fast moving cars. In these circumstances, having a lowered speed limit seems entirely justified. A case is going to the High Court, however, that could mean many thousands of such convictions being overturned.

Michael Castle is bring ing a test case after being convicted of speeding through roadworks. His case was thrown out in a magistrates court but he has appealed to the High Court to overturn this verdict. His lawyer, motoring law specialist Kieran Henry, believes he has a good case. He says: "Close reading made it clear that the law is seriously flawed. Although the same legislation is used to impose Orders for lower speed limits at roadworks all over the country, it is poorly framed, vague and totally ambiguous. As a result, the Highways Agency is acting ultra vires – beyond its powers."

Castle's case rests on four key principles. Firstly, the Order (governing the speed limit at the roadworks) said that the limit should be either 50 or 60mph. It is not clear which speed limit should be used at any time and therefore the higher limit should be assumed.

The Order also did not specify when a lower limit could be brought into force or for what reason. Similarly, it does not state who should make this decision.

The Order should have been signed by the Secretary of State for Transport or, failing that, a senior officer in that department. In this case it was signed by a completely separate agency reporting to the Cabinet Office.

The decision as to which speed limit to enforce at the roadworks was taken by a fairly junior employee of the Highways Agency, implying that the agency was improperly making up its own laws.

Roadworks speeding fines can be big business. Just at the roadworks where Mr Castle was caught speeding, almost 40,000 motorists were caught in 2012. Assuming each pays the standard £60 fine, that would rake in £2.3 million. This figure may surprise many and demonstrates the sort of numbers involved across the country.

Mr Castle's case is due to come before the High Court next year.

Posted by on

Back to December 2013

Back to top