Leytonstone News

Waltham Forest drivers escape fines thanks to stranger wielding little-known law

A little-known London law is helping drivers dodge fines from the borough’s most ‘profitable’ traffic camera
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Ivan Murray-Smith, a 35-year-old from Norfolk, volunteers to help drivers fight fines
Ivan Murray-Smith, a 35-year-old from Norfolk, volunteers to help drivers fight fines

Drivers caught out by the borough’s most profitable traffic camera are escaping fines thanks to a volunteer wielding a little-known London law.

Ivan Murray-Smith, a 35-year-old Conservative from Norfolk, volunteers to help drivers appealing fines because he feels local councils issue them in a way that is “not proportionate or in the public interest”.

So far this year, he has helped three drivers escape £130 fines for straying into the end of the 24-hour bus lane in Whipps Cross Road, near the Green Man interchange in Leytonstone.

The camera trained on this bus lane earned Waltham Forest Council almost £3million from 2019 to 2021, thanks to more than 55,000 fines.

Whipps Cross Road near the junction (credit: Google Earth)

However, according to the London Local Authorities Act 1996, the bus lane camera must be “ministerially approved” by the Home Office for the fines to be valid.

Ivan said: “In the late 90s and early 2000s there were two companies which got three [models of] cameras approved but, for whatever reason, no one bothered doing that any more.

“For the past 20-odd years, [councils have] been enforcing these penalties and the only reason they got away with it is that no one questioned it.”

He believes the “overwhelming likelihood” is that none of the cameras in use in London today are authorised by the Home Office.

Explaining why he volunteers to help strangers, Ivan said: “Councils are supposed to disregard money [when enforcing traffic laws], but when you look at the appeals and money raised there’s certainly some doubts about that – particularly Waltham Forest.

“I’m someone who believes in the rule of law and yes, people shouldn’t drive in bus lanes, but if local authorities want to enforce those lanes they should follow the rules properly. 

“There’s a legitimate purpose in enforcing regulations but I think there’s a definite distinction between the way the police… tend to do it in the pursuit of justice [and how councils do it].

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“The police would be unlikely to take any action against someone clipping the end of the bus lane because it would not be proportionate or in the public interest.”

Read more: Waltham Forest’s 11 worst roads for driving fines last year

Ivan has helped three drivers overturn fines from the bus lane before London’s Environment and Traffic Adjudicators, after council officers were unable to prove the camera was Home Office-approved.

In February, traffic adjudicator Michael Burke cancelled driver Mohammad Ayub’s fine, after two council officers gave “no further comment” when asked to confirm the camera’s model.

In April, Murray-Smith helped win a second appeal against a council officer “unwilling” to clarify the camera type, stating only it was “an approved device” under a different 2007 law.

At the time, adjudicator Gerald Styles noted this did “little to establish” whether it “was of a ministerially approved type as required for enforcement” by the 1996 act.

Last year, Redbridge resident Helen Watson accused the council of using the camera on Whipps Cross Road bus lane as a “warped income generation scheme” after learning it netted more than £1million in fines a year.

Following the original publication of this article, deputy leader Cllr Clyde Loakes insisted all the borough’s enforcement cameras “are compliant with the current legislation and certified for use”.

He added: “Where we believe Traffic Adjudicators have ruled incorrectly we have the right to appeal those rulings. We regularly review how we enforce traffic regulations to ensure that we are compliant with the law.

“The camera is clearly signposted and drivers should be aware that infringing a bus lane is prohibited in London. Income generated from fines can only be used to improve our highways.

“The simplest way to avoid traffic fines remains to avoid breaking the regulations that exist to keep all road users safe.”

Ivan finds many of the drivers he helps through a forum dedicated to “helping the motorist get justice”.

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