Can dash cam evidence be used against you in court?
With a website now helping motorists submit dash cam evidence direct to the police, prosecutions are set to increase. We take a look at legal aspects of dash cam evidence.
The new National Dash Cam Safety Portal (NDSP) is part of an initiative that is set to see a sharp rise in prosecutions for dangerous driving and even speeding offences.
25% of UK car drivers now have a dash cam installed in their vehicle. Insurer Aviva expects this to be 50% in just a few years.
Police forces have already faced a deluge of dash cam evidence submissions from concerned car drivers and many forces have struggled to keep up with the influx. NDSP will make the whole process much easier and quicker for offices to investigate and prosecute.
Is dash cam footage legal for use in court?
The short answer is, yes, it can. Since 2015 drivers have faced prosecution and even jail sentences based on dashcam evidence. Courts view the footage as proof of incrimination and more reliable than basic witness testimony.
Can you challenge dashcam footage?
There are a number of grounds on which you could challenge dashcam footage.
The most significant challenge would be based on timings. By law, the police must issue a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) within 14 days of the offence being committed. Because of this, they require submission to be made to them with ten days of the offence and they then rely on their processes to be efficient enough to asses the footage and issue a NIP within the remaining four days. If you do receive a NIP, check the dates very carefully.
Another area where you can challenge the legality of evidence submitted against you is the position of the dash cam in the vehicle that was used to film the evidence. If you can find out the position of the dashcam in relation to the driver’s view, and it was placed unsafely, the driver can technically be issued with a fine, making the footage recorded on the camera inadmissible in court.
Some forces also place strict guidelines on the footage, to reduce the chances of a legal challenge.
For example, Surrey Police require that:
‘Footage should be of high quality and include at least 2 minutes before & after any incident. Video should not be edited in any way.’
They also prefer that the dash cam evidence not be published in any media, including social media, presumably for fear of it prejudicing a case.
If you think any of these requirements have not been met you may be able to challenge the evidence.
Your own camera footage can also be used against you
As we revealed last year, your bike or helmet-mounted camera footage can be used against you and the police have the right to seize your equipment if they think an offence has been committed.
Avoiding filming your speedometer isn’t going to work anymore. New forensic techniques mean offices can still work out your speed from other clues on the road, such as the time taken between road signs or telegraph poles. These techniques do however require more investigation than standard camera footage that shows your speedometer.
Motorcyclists who commit traffic offences rightly need to be concerned.
Unfortunately, not all cases are cut-and-dried and many bikers could find themselves having to defend their riding when dash cam footage can paint a picture that could be out of context. There may be mitigating circumstances that officers might not be aware of – think of a motorcyclist having to run a red light or drive at high speed due to a potential bike-jacking, for example.
As well as legitimate cases, footage of entirely innocent or relatively fault-free riding could find its way onto the NDSP website, as a result of many motorists’ negative attitudes towards motorcycles.
Take a look at the video below, at the moment at 3:31, where a motorcyclist pulls in at the last minute to leave the motorway. It’s seemingly an ill-judged move, but who knows what circumstances have led to the motorcyclist having to make that late action? We certainly don’t, and it’s hard for an officer to, as well. That doesn’t stop them having their time wasted by viewing yet another submission of a reckless or ‘driving dangerously’ biker.
Many of the clips in the footage contain idiotic and often dangerous riding, for which the riders could expect to be prosecuted. In other clips, the case isn’t always so clear. The camera may not lie, but it doesn’t always show ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’.
Statement by Biker & Bike
Are we anti-dash cam?
Biker & Bike has produced a number of articles on the rising use of dash cams. Why? Because we do not want to see motorcyclists vilified through the use of dash cams.
While we cannot condone reckless or dangerous riding, we do know as bikers ourselves that other road users often dislike motorcyclists for no better treason that we can make quicker progress than them. Dash cams make it too easy for them to pick up on a small issue and conflate it.
Many road users are also poorly informed on the law and the Highway Code. Dash cam footage, no matter how minor a perceived offence, can be used by them to unreasonably pursue or intimidate a rider.
We do not want stretched police forces to have their resources wasted by thousands of entries for ‘dangerous driving’ or ‘speeding’ when a motorcyclist has performed a perfectly reasonable manoeuvre.
What we certainly don’t want to see is our country become a nation of people spying on each other or home to a ‘citizen police force’. The UK has a perfectly professional police service already, without the interference of Chief Inspector Sunday Driver.
We admit there is not much we can do about it. But we hope that by better-informing fellow bikers of what to expect and what our rights are, fewer motorcyclists will be subjected to unfair treatment.