HUNDREDS of driving convictions could be overturned after a motorist who filmed a crash on his mobile phone was cleared at the High Court today.
Ramsey Barreto, 51, was prosecuted and found guilty after police saw him driving past an accident close to his home in Ruislip in August 2017 and using his phone to take a video for more than ten seconds.
However last October a judge at Isleworth crown court overturned the conviction after deciding that laws only banned the use of mobiles to speak or communicate while at the wheel.
Mr Barreto's case went to the High Court and today two judges upheld the crown court decision, clearing him of the offence.
His solicitor, Emma Patterson, said this opened up the possibility defendants who feel they were misrepresented could have their convictions overturned.
The penalty for using a handheld device while driving is a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points.
There have been 8,300 convictions in England and Wales since 2017, opening the possibility for hundreds to be overturned.
Ms Patterson said: "We might be able to persuade the courts to reopen cases where people have been convicted on a misapplication of the law, especially when they were unrepresented at the time they pleaded guilty or were found guilty.
"Also anybody that pleaded guilty thinking that what they were doing did amount to an offence – the police will give people ‘legal advice’ at the roadside which people seem to accept at face value – may be able to argue that their original guilty plea was equivocal.
"Again another ground for reopening the conviction despite a guilty plea and the first instance."
Delivering the verdict today – – and confirming the loophole – Lady Justice Thirlwall, who heard the case with Mr Justice Goss, said: "The legislation does not prohibit all use of a mobile phone held while driving.
"It prohibits driving while using a mobile phone or other device for calls and other interactive communication – and holding it at some stage during that process."
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