A man dodged a speeding ticket after the tribunal found that the speed camera was not calibrated according to the law when it snapped his vehicle’s photo, raising questions about the legality of thousands of other fines.
Alistair Cachia was fined after his car was captured by the speed camera located on Triq tal-Barrani at Żejtun in November 2019.
Being a keen connoisseur of the law that regulates measuring instruments, Cachia refused to pay the €69 fine, before seeing a certificate confirming that the capturing camera was calibrated according to law.
Maltese law stipulates that all measuring instruments, from grocer and butcher scales to taxi meters and speed cameras, must be calibrated periodically to ensure they consistently display fair and accurate measurements.
The Metrology Act, as it is technically known, is regulated and enforced by the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority, and a 2011 legal notice specifies that speeding cameras must be calibrated once a year. The entire body of the camera, bar its pole, must be couriered to an accredited lab abroad for testing.
But when it took Cachia’s vehicle photo, the speed camera had been calibrated more than a year earlier, rendering LESA’s only evidence of speeding unlawful, and forcing the tribunal to revoke the contravention.
It does not mean the camera was malfunctioning. LESA and G4S, which is the speed cameras’ supplier, presented the camera’s last calibration certificate before the tribunal.
Times of Malta has seen the certificate, issued by a Swedish company where the camera was calibrated in 2018.
The camera had last been calibrated more than a year before the ticket was issued, but the certificate of calibration was valid for two years, prompting LESA to argue that the camera was certified and could not have made mistakes.
Overturning fines unlikely since they are likely to be time-barred
But Cachia, who was assisted by lawyer Anthea Turner, won the case anyway because the law requires annual calibration.
After the tribunal decision, the Local Enforcement Systems Agency appealed and took the case to court. The court asked LESA to bring forward a technical expert to testify on the camera’s performance accuracy, but no such expert was found in Malta and the agency withdrew the appeal last month, to avoid incurring further expenses.
Times of Malta has subsequently seen 20 other calibration certificates, one for every speed camera on the islands, all dating to the same period when Cachia was fined, between 2018 and 2020. They all share a similar certification, valid for two years.
If, like the Żejtun camera, the others were also not calibrated, all the contraventions issued in their second year, like Cachia’s, were unlawful.
In 2019, speed cameras in Malta issued 53,838 speeding tickets between them.
Legal experts told Times of Malta this case could pave the way for other drivers to lodge complaints over speeding fines received during that period, but overturning the fine is probably unlikely, because the fines are likely to be time barred by now.
Contacted for comment, a spokesperson for G4S insisted that all speed cameras have been calibrated annually, as per the law, since 2004. He said the company only skipped calibration in 2019 because it had recently bought new cameras with a more modern technology and that the Swedish company that calibrated them advised them that the new technology requires calibration only once every two years, as per EU law.
In a reply to questions, LESA said that “all speed cameras are calibrated as per local law requirements”.
Times of Malta is informed that until the law is amended, the speed cameras are now being calibrated annually again.
Since 2011, speed cameras have been responsible for around half a million contraventions, an average of 50,000 speeding tickets every year.
During the first three months of this year, a total of 12,376 speeding tickets were issued.
The widely-unpopular 50 kilometre per hour speed limit camera in Nutar Zarb Street in Attard is the biggest culprit, topping the list of tickets issued every year for 10 years.
Speeding tickets cost drivers €35.65 if they exceed the speed limit by less than 15 kilometres per hour, but the fine shoots to €69.65 if they are caught speeding by more than that. It also wipes three points off the driver’s licence.
That means that over the last decade, the speed cameras have generated around €25 million in contraventions.
A few months after the first speed cameras were installed 17 years ago, another driver, Victor Bonello, also contested two speeding tickets on grounds that the cameras were not lawfully calibrated. Back then he was also acquitted because no calibration certification was produced.
It later transpired that the cameras were, in fact, calibrated, but the tribunal was not aware of this.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us