'Shotgun' legal strategy backfires on truckie

The exposed position of those representing themselves in court has been highlighted again in a lost appeal in a South Australian speeding case

By Rob McKay | September 6, 2010

The exposed position of those representing themselves in court has been highlighted again in a lost appeal in a South Australian speeding case.

In his just-released summation of the case of Moran v Police, in the South Australian Supreme Court, Justice Kelly rejected a number of appeal points made by the driver of a truck who had insisted that he could not have been travelling at 111kmh as his speed limiter was locked on 100kmh.

In perhaps the only commentary on the case so far, the legal blog www.summarycrime.com noted the common failure of unrepresented litigants to use a 'shotgun' approach of "choosing too many argument to rely on" and the equally weak method of "mounting a global attack on the justice system".

Along with the limiter defence, the driver had questioned: the accuracy of the police speedometer; the jurisdiction of the Murray Bridge Magistrates Court to hear the case; that the magistrate had allowed a prosecution amendment; the lack of a chance to cross-examine the police inspector who tested the vehicle’s speedometer; and a generalised complaint that the prosecution did not prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

In the event, the judge dismissed every point, saying they presented "no credible evidence".

On the point about the speed limiter, Justice Kelly says: "The appellant on appeal filed an affidavit, over objection of the respondent, attaching a certificate dated 2 June 2010 from MTU Detroit Diesel which attests to the fact that on 2 June 2010 the speed limit on the truck had been programmed at 100 kilometres per hour.

"The respondent correctly pointed out that the certificate is not relevant to any issue on this appeal as the date on the certificate is almost two years after the date of the relevant offence.

"Moreover, it does not address the speed capacity of the appellant's vehicle on the date of the offence or the question whether the speed limiting device was operative on the date of the offence.

"In these circumstances the certificate has no evidentiary value."

On the point about the alleged discrepancy between federal and state provisions, Justice Kelly says: "The appellant's next complaint was that the speed device and the method of testing it by the police did not comply with s10 of the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth).

"Section 10 of that Act operates only when it is necessary to ascertain whether or not a measurement of a physical quantity has been made in the terms of Australian legal units of measurement.

"It does not in its terms set out a method of determining whether an Australian legal unit has been measured correctly in a particular instance.

"Nor does it displace the common law presumption of the accuracy of scientific instruments where the scientific instrument is notoriously accurate; see Jenkins v WMC Resources Ltd (1999) 21 WAR 393.

"Speedometers fall within the category of scientific instruments to which the presumption of accuracy applies; see Gray J in Pinkerton v Police [2006] SASC 341, Redman v Klun (1979) 20 SASR 343 at 344 – 345."

At the NatRoad conference last month, Roger Sanders, a former Victoria Police traffic chief and now part of consultancy Delta-V Experts, warned against the practice of representing one's self in court, especially in relation to a serious accident.

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