The time was 2009, Oasis were still a band, Top Gear was gaining popularity and the iPhone wasn’t actually very good.
I owned a Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch (awaits the swift exit of all tribe members), apologies for this but it was the best choice of company car at the time. Also, it was a diesel (down to zero tribe members I go).
On the upside, it was the 150ps model so had some grunt along with reasonable looks and was pretty quick for a dirty smoker.
On the 21st January 2009, I found myself lost in Southend-on-Sea in Essex when I say lost I mean totally and utterly lost.
I attempted to follow my phone installed TomTom which proved about as much use as a baby piglet at giving competent driving directions to my actual home. Finally some refuge, I’d happened upon the A13 which led to somewhere in the direction of my home, I’m saved I thought.
Now for those of you that are familiar with Essex, the A13 is a dual carriageway that opens out into four lanes at points. At the point at which I’d discovered it was merely two lanes. Finally, I could get some speed going and get home. I quickly reached 60mph only for a very brightly dress spec to appear in front of my holding a hand aloft like the Queen waving to a crowd.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed that this was, in fact, a police officer, a very short one at that. I began to brake as he gestured wildly for me to pull in. Immediately I thought to myself “what the hell have I done wrong”.
I follow his directions into a petrol station and he strides up to my car with a slightly angry look on his face, as I exit the car I notice that this police office must have been admitted on a slow day as he is five foot nothing and looked like a cross between Harry Potter and the Milky Bar kid.
For the purposes of this piece, he will be referred to as Office Harry Potter. Now, historically I have a habit of being pulled over by the shortest coppers every enlisted into our police forces, I am 6’3 so they always seem to get a strong dose of the major arse whenever I step out of the car and tower over them.
Officer Harry Potter was no exception to this, he had a major case of the arse, this is how the exchange went:
Officer Harry Potter: Do you know how fast you were going
Officer Harry Potter: Do you know the speed limit on this road.
Me: Yes, its 60mph as it’s a dual carriageway.
Officer Harry Potter: You’re wrong sir, it’s 30mph as it’s clearly indicated by the streetlights being less than 100yards apart.
Me: F**k (in my head); Apologies I thought it was the A13, therefore dual carriageway speed limits apply.
Officer Harry Potter: Do you need your license for work sir:
Me: No, but I need it for other stuff.
Officer Harry Potter: Well sir, as you were doing twice the speed limit at 60mph verified by radar, I can ban you from the roads for a long time.
You can see how this was going to go, Officer Harry Potter was clearly not in the mood to accommodate any excuses from a much taller (and therefore superior) man.
After several minutes of exchanges and details checking during which he never actually ran my number plates. I fessed up to the speed of 58mph and received a fixed penalty notice which would result in a £60 fine and three points on my license.
I went on my way and did the three hundred pages of paperwork required to submit my rather old and battered paper license. Now, I have possessed this paper license from the age of eighteen years of age. At some point due to it falling apart, I had laminated it to preserve it. This was before photocard licenses were in use in the UK, as in the paper license was all I had.
I sent off the thousands of pages of paperwork and my license along with a cheque for £60 and forgot about it. A massive eight weeks later I received my license back and my cheque accompanied by a letter stating that the DVLA were unable to physically write the offense on my license so the ticket was canceled and the paperwork will go back to the issuing officer, AKA Harry Potter.
March 2009 rolled into Summer 2009 and then a major moment in my life, I had to have lung surgery which was a disaster. Two days out of surgery my helpful mother brought my mail to me and in it was the great news that Officer Harry Potter was taking me to court shortly to prosecute me for the speeding offense.
As the days in the hospital turned into weeks and I finally was able to sit up after lots of nerve damage, I contacted the court house almost a week before my hearing to explain that due to being unable to move and being in the hospital I couldn’t make the court date. This was met with derision over the phone, much derision at that. I again completed the three thousand pages of paperwork from my hospital bed and sent it off.
Then the court date came, Officer Harry Potter had a field day. I received a £1,100 fine, six points on my license due to my absence and £250 in court costs. Thanks, Officer Harry Potter for that one.
I got out of hospital six days after receiving this great news, I duly paid it and having plenty of time on my hands I then started to plan my appeal with the help of a very useful solicitor.
To cut a long story short, I went back to court in September 2009. The prosecution could offer no reason for the rejection of my license which got me all the way to court in the first place. After a much secret discussion which would have looked right at home in a freemason’s function, I was duly awarded 3 points and a £60 fine which is exactly what I should have got in the first place.
Possibly due to walking in with a stick and having a fantastic solicitor I also received back all the excess fines and expenses that I had paid along with full reimbursement of all of my legal fees.
Officer Harry Potter looked rather forlorn and still short, the judge closed with “Mr. Hodges, consider yourself lucky, this, however, has proven to be a waste of both time for yourself and the resource of the courts and the Police when it should have been a simple task to deal with”.
So there you have it, I fought the law and the law won. But I got what I deserved rather than a railroading by Officer Harry Potter.
Oddly enough the offending stretch of road, or cash machine as I like to call it, is now plastered with 30mph signs and a million cameras and rocket launchers in case you hit 32mph. The last one may not be true…….