Miles Kington: How traffic surveillance got a bit of an eyeful

A man has gone on trial accused of causing mischief to a speed camera and dealing in pornography - in the same incident
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The Independent Online

Legal history is being created in the High Court this month, where a man has gone on trial accused of causing mischief to a speed camera and dealing in pornographic films. As far as experts can determine, nobody has ever been accused of the two crimes before, arising from the same incident. What happened was that ... but if I tried to explain it, you would not believe me, so here is an actual extract from the trial itself.

Counsel: You are Mr Geoffrey Thimble of 3 Cottage Villas, Bournemouth, I believe?

Thimble: If you believe that, you will believe anything.

Counsel: You are not Mr Geoffrey Thimble?

Thimble: I did not say that. I just wished to point out that you are jumping to conclusions. You have never seen me before in your life. You have never been to my home in Bournemouth. You have no proof of my identity. And yet, just because you have been told that the next person to enter the dock will be Geoffrey Thimble of 3 Cottage Villages, you automatically assume it to be so.

Counsel: Are you in fact Geoffrey Thimble?

Thimble: Yes.

Counsel: Thank you.

Judge: If I might intervene here, Mr Driver, what on earth is all this about?

Counsel: This is a piece of preliminary jousting, m'Lud, where the defendant and I seek to establish the tactical upper hand.

Judge: Right. How is it going?

Counsel: I am just about holding my own, m'Lud.

Judge: Jolly good. Carry on.

Counsel: Now, Mr Thimble, I want you to cast your mind back to 17 July 2004.

Thimble: It was a Friday.

Counsel: Thank you. I believe you got up very early on that day and drove to the local bypass, where you proceeded to tamper with a speed camera.

Thimble: It's over two years ago. You may be right. I cannot remember off-hand.

Counsel: Think hard, Mr Thimble.

Thimble: May I refer to my 2004 diary? Let me see ... 17 July ... Here we are! Yes, the entry says: "Rise early. Deal with speed camera. Back to bed."

Counsel: In what way did you damage the camera?

Thimble: I did not damage it at all.

Counsel: Then how, in the words of your diary, did you deal with it?

Thimble: I contrived to climb to the top and then affix a device to the camera lens.

Counsel: Describe this gadget.

Thimble: It was a small video player.

Counsel: So that anyone monitoring the speed camera would not be able to see the passing traffic any more, only your gadget and the film being shown on it?

Thimble: Precisely.

Counsel: What in fact was the film being projected on your gadget?

Thimble: It was a small, lurid film called Roger Gets Going.

Counsel: Would you describe it as porn?

Thimble: I have not seen the film myself, but it was sold to me on that understanding.

Counsel: Are you aware that a police traffic surveillance officer who switched to that camera later in the day nearly had a heart attack and was off work for a week?

Thimble: I am glad to hear it.

Counsel: You are glad to cause suffering?

Thimble: The suffering I may have caused is as nothing compared to the suffering caused by the plague of speed cameras throughout Britain.

Counsel: You do not approve of people driving slower?

Thimble: On the contrary. It is a good idea. But I have often observed that people slow down so abruptly when they see a speed camera, that they themselves are a danger to traffic.

Counsel: Are you saying that speed cameras are dangerous?

Thimble: Certainly. I have seen several accidents caused by drivers over-reacting to speed cameras, by braking hard and causing the car behind to go into them.

Counsel: Even if this were so, does that justify your tampering with a speed camera?

Thimble: How can you possibly describe it as "tampering"?

More of this tomorrow, I hope.

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