At first, the headlines looked like a serious breach of justice: “Man Gets 8 Months In Prison After Flipping-Off Traffic Camera.” A jail sentence for a rude gesture?
As much as I have concerns about civil liberties and law enforcement, after tracking down the actual news (or at least a press release from the relevant police agency), it appears the case wasn’t as simple as jailing a man for flipping a bird at a speed camera. I have to say that the guy probably deserved some legal grief, if only for being too brazen.
On three different occasions, Timothy Hill, 67, ofÂ Grassington in North Yorkshire, UK, was photographed extending his middle finger as he drove past police vans equipped with speed cameras on the A19 highway last December. The UK has some rather strange laws concerning free expression, so I can’t say for sure that Hill would have completely avoided trouble had he not used sign language to tell Johnny Law to go screw himself, as he had also spec’d his Range Rover with a laser jammer.
Laser jammers are highly illegal in the UK, and apparently the camera vans were equipped with devices to detect them. So, it’s possible Mr. Hill would have been caught even without making the obscene gesture but, as a man who believes in hiding in plain sight, I have to say that Tim was a bit imprudent and unnecessarily brought attention unto himself.
I’m guessing the jammer actually worked, as the police did not charge Hill with any speeding violations. Instead, they charged him with the crime of “perverting the course of justice” â€” something I assume is comparable to a felony obstruction of justice charge in the U.S., because it carries a prison sentence if convicted. When Hill found out he was under investigation, he tried to destroy the evidence by throwing the laser jammer into a river that flowed behind his home. However, when confronted with evidence, he admitted using the device and agreed to plead guilty to the charges.
The judge in Teesside Crown Court said Hill’s use of the laser jammer and subsequent attempt to destroy evidence thereof were actions thatÂ â€œstrike at the heartâ€� of the justice system and sentenced him to eight months in prison as a deterrent to others.Â Hill’s driving license was also revoked for a year.
North Yorkshire Police did an endzone dance using traditional and social media. Via a press release, Traffic Constable Andrew Forth, who led the investigation, said, â€œIf you want to attract our attention, repeatedly gesturing at police camera vans with your middle finger while youâ€™re driving a distinctive car fitted with a laser jammer is an excellent way to do it.” The department released live action video of Hill flipping said birds and tweeted: “Top tip: If you want to stay out of trouble, don’t do what this driver did and swear at our mobile safety cameras while driving past in a car fitted with a laser jammer. Today he’s beginning 8 months in jail for perverting the course of justice.”
[Image: North Yorkshire Police]