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Driver caught filming crash on mobile phone could spark shake up on laws surrounding usage at the wh


A driver caught filming a crash on his mobile phone may force a shake-up of the laws surrounding phone use at the wheel.

Ramsey Barreto should have been able to avoid a conviction because he was not using it to communicate, his defence has claimed.

The 51-year-old was prosecuted for filming a crash on his phone while driving past an accident in Ruislip after being spotted by police. He had been his phone to take a video for more than 10 seconds and was later found guilty.

But the conviction was overturned because it was deemed that only using the phone to speak or communicate while at the wheel is banned. The ruling could lead to a rewrite of the laws around phone use, as it has now been reserved for a High Court judgement later in the year. It follows the result of the test case, the Crown vs Eldarf, which was highlighted as crucial in TAXI earlier this year. Judges in the Eldarf appeal ruled that the key words were “interactive” and “communication,” and the driver was using an internal function of the phone and not using an “external communication function,” e.g. chatting on the phone or texting, while driving, and was not breaking the law. In the latest case, Mr Barreto’s legal team argued that motorists could not be convicted for using mobile phones if they were not using them to communicate and was successful. Now however, lawyers for the director of public prosecutions (DPP) challenged that ruling in the High Court in London, which could force ministers to amend the law. Lawyers for the DPP argued that the crown court judge misinterpreted road safety regulations. They claim that the rules “prohibit any use of a handheld mobile telephone while driving.” When stopped on the road, Mr Barreto is said to have apologised but at his magistrates’ court hearing he claimed the officer was mistaken. The accepted the officer’s evidence. In October, Mr Barreto again claimed that the officer was mistaken, and that his passenger had used the phone to film the scene. The Judge Simon Davis rejected that claim, but still quashed the conviction because his use of the phone did not involve “interactive communication.” Mr Barreto’s lawyers claim phone use restrictions only apply if the driver is “performing an interactive communication function,” which bans talking, texting and internet use, but not using a phone as a camera. The prosecution says, “the regulation is to guard against unsafe driving caused by drivers holding their phones and using them, thereby distracting themselves from proper concentration and control of their vehicles,” and said it was illogical. Lady Justice Thirlwall will give judgment on the case at a later date. 

Image Author: Roman Pohorecki

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