Two Justices of the Peace (one of whom I know) found lawyer Keith Jefferies guilty of driving while using a phone in Wellington recently.
But the constable Bevan Sheffield-Cranstoun had no physical evidence to back his assertion – there was no video, no call transcript and no photo. There was only his word, as the Stuff article said:
“Jefferies told him he had not been using his cellphone while driving but Mr Sheffield-Cranstoun said he was certain about what he had seen.”
The article went on to say
Under cross-examination from Jefferies’ lawyer, John Tannahill, Mr Sheffield-Cranstoun agreed he had not asked to see the device between Jefferies’ legs.
It’s seems to be a simple case of who you believe – the sworn police officer, or the lawyer than enjoys winning traffic cases for his clients. I’m not going to debate who is right in the case – that’s not the point.
The point is we should no longer be satisfied with a lack of physical evidence for matters of this nature. With today’s technology there is no reason why we cannot equip all of our police force with evidential video cameras that are always on. The cameras can be inside the vehicles and on the police themselves.
Each time a crime is committed in front of an officer there will be a visual record, court admissible, of the offense. Police will be trained – if it isn’t on video it isn’t observed.
Meanwhile let’s change the requirement for evidence for speeding. I advocate adoption of the process used in Botswana, where all speed traps are backed up by video evidence. The pulled over motorist is immediately invited to see the video of their vehicle speeding, which has the radar’s reading superimposed. It’s impossible to argue with, and will surely save a lot of court action as well.
We are so lucky in New Zealand to have a trusted Police. Let’s help keep it that way by giving them the tools they need to do their job.