This morning’s Observer column:
A few years ago, I received a speeding ticket from the Metropolitan police claiming that a speed-camera in London had photographed my car – citing the correct registration number of the vehicle – doing 43mph in a 30mph zone. Most people would, I guess, be distressed by receiving such a communication. Your columnist, however, was perversely delighted – because it offered him the opportunity of not only irritating the cops but also of making an important point about the dangers of being overly dependent on technology.
The reason for my glee was that the car had definitely not been at the location specified on the speeding ticket at the time and I could prove that using the same technology that the Met had used in order to frame me. My family and I had been out of the UK in the week in question and the car was parked at Stansted airport, where its arrival and departure at the mid-stay car park were logged by the automated numberplate recognition technology that the airport authorities had recently installed.
Accordingly, I wrote to the commissioner of the Metropolitan police enclosing a copy of the speeding ticket and saying that I would be very interested to see what evidence he had in support of it, adding that I intended to contest it on the grounds that I could prove my car had been nowhere near the location at the time. But my hopes for a bloody good row were dashed within a fortnight: a computer-generated notice arrived, informing me that the speeding ticket had been cancelled. No explanation; no apology; nothing…