Accrington boat owner loses legal battle over Windermere speeding fine

Accrington boat owner loses legal battle over Windermere speeding fine

Steve Wilkinson with son Harrison

Steve on his boat on Windermere

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Crime reporter

A BOATING enthusiast has lost a legal fight after he was clocked speeding on Windermere.

Steve Wilkinson, 49, of The Triangle, Accrington, is believed to be the first person to challenge a charge of exceeding the 10mph limit after a crackdown was introduced last summer.

Rather than accept a fine, the heating engineer decided to represent himself in court to deny breaking the controversial by-law.

But magistrates in South Lakeland did not believe Wilkinson’s claim and he was fined £450 and ordered to pay £450 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Now the dad of two said he is considering appealing the court’s decision.

Speaking after the case, he said: "It has upset the whole family so much. I am not sleeping and I am genuinely upset.

“I have never been so ill in my life.

“I did not know how the court works. I am considering appealing. It is principles and principles can be very expensive.

“I think if they had lost this case, they were worried the floodgates would open.

“I do not want it to put us off going on the lake because then they have won.”

Wilkinson was clocked by a ranger using hi-tech video binoculars, which have a GPS speedometer, which were introduced in August as part of a crackdown on boat owners breaking the 10mph speed limit.

The speed limit was introduced in 2005 after a public enquiry.

Wilkinson was stopped in his 17.5ft Sea Ray Bowrider boat on September 1 after a day on the lake with family and friends.

Ranger Timothy Maggs told South Lakeland Magistrates’ Court he was returning to base at the Windermere Steamboat Museum around 5.30pm when he saw the boat emerge from behind Lady Holme island.

“It was travelling very fast at what I judged to be about twice the speed limit of 10mph,” he said.

The ranger recorded the boat using hi-tech video binoculars for around 40 seconds while Wilkinson covered a quarter of a mile of the lake.

“I decided to intervene to catch up with the boat because I didn’t want to be tearing up the lake to get to it.

“We have an advanced GPS speedometer which is accurate to within a fraction of one per cent. The speed was reading between 19.5 and 22 knots in the period I was following him.”

Wilkinson said at the time of the incident he was travelling back up from Bowness Bay.

He said: “The ranger pulled alongside us and asked how fast I thought we were going. I said I wasn’t exceeding the speed limit.

“It is quite clear where the speed limit changes; when we went into Bowness Bay my friend asked me why we had slowed down, and I said it is now 6mph.

“I wasn’t knowingly driving the boat over the speed limit through them waterways on September 1.”

He confirmed that his speedometer, which measures the pressure of water that propels the boat, starts measuring at 10mph.

Witness Carl Smalley, 48, who was on the boat, said he watched the speedometer as they had travelled out of the bay and the needle rose from 6mph to 10mph. And when they saw the ranger’s flashing lights he was travelling at 10mph.

In court, Wilkinson claimed the case was littered with inaccuracies and was reliant on one person’s say-so.

He said: “I was the victim of a motivated approach. I have no problem with the bylaw and fully support making the lake a more beautiful place.”

He questioned Mr Maggs’s training and ability to judge the speed his boat was going, and disputed where he had been when he first saw the boat.

But magistrates were unconvinced, and finding him guilty, chairman John Falvey said he had considered Mr Maggs’s 19 years experience as a lake ranger and 15 years as a power boat instructor.

“Nothing we have heard from you or witnesses has placed any doubt in our minds as to the accuracy of his evidence,” he said. “We are satisfied you would have known you were in excess of the limit.”

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