Driver wins no entry battle

PIC ALAN WATSON - BOTHWELL SERVICES - EMERGANCY EXIT CLOSURE
PIC ALAN WATSON - BOTHWELL SERVICES - EMERGANCY EXIT CLOSURE
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a DRIVER has won a legal battle after challenging police who stopped him for going through a no entry sign.

Garry Connelly faced a fine and penalty points for using a popular short cut at Bothwell motorway services.

Now, following his victory, it’s being claimed that other motorists caught there could have their penalties quashed.

Mr Connelly (37), formerly of Bellshill, was charged after driving his works van through the entrance to the M74 service station in Fallside Road, Bothwell, in February.

He refused to accept a fixed penalty of £60 and three penalty points, and opted to face trial at Hamilton Justice of the Peace Court. However, Mr Connelly, who now lives in Newmains, had his not guilty plea accepted at a pre-trial hearing.

He said the u-turn came after he claimed in court that the no entry sign on ground owned by the service station operators is unregulated and not covered by road traffic legislation.

The status of the sign has been a subject of debate for many years. Many drivers use the entrance as a short cut to avoid congestion in Bothwell and at the Raith motorway junction, although police are seen patrolling the location occasionally.

Mr Connelly claimed officers were told recently they should no longer stop drivers there as the sign is unregulated.

He said: “I was relieved by the outcome but not surprised. I was confident regarding the information I had about the sign. I know others have been convicted and I feel it’s all such a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. I represented myself, but had I a lawyer it would have cost me hundreds.”

Mr Connelly said his job involves attending to lorry breakdowns and he is called out to the Bothwell service area regularly.

He added: “Lots of people use that short cut and I would do so again. I have asked the police and the fiscal questions about this sign’s status and no one has given me answers. However, I’ve been told informally it’s an unregulated sign.

“I drive 50,000 miles a year and have a clean licence. My licence is important to me and that is why I fought this. Had I been stopped for speeding or using a mobile phone, I would have accepted it, but not for something as trivial as this.”

Last year service station operators Road Chef put up a makeshift barrier preventing access from Fallside Road, claiming speeding drivers were a danger to their customers. However, it didn’t last long and the shortcut is as popular as ever.

Central Scotland MSP Margaret Mitchell acknowledged the route helps ease congestion elsewhere. She said: “It looks like the law has now been clarified and that is to be welcomed. I would imagine motorists penalised for failing to comply with this sign will have grounds for appeal.”

However, the Crown Office refused to confirm the reason for dropping the case against Mr Connelly - and would not rule out prosecuting future ‘offenders’.

A spokesman said: “After full and careful consideration of all the evidence in Mr Connelly’s case, it was decided to accept a not guilty plea at the intermediate diet stage. The case is now closed.

“There is no change to our prosecution policy. Every report received from the police is assessed on its individual facts and circumstances to confirm whether an offence has occurred and whether it is in the public interest to take any action.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on separate, unrelated cases.”