Anyone who has access to a news platform will be aware that David Beckham was last week acquitted of a speeding offence after his lawyer argued a procedural issue in the way the Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) conducted the case against him. It has been repeatedly referred to as a ‘legal loophole’, but this is misleading. The argument advanced by Beckham was not a ‘loophole’ but was pointing out that the Prosecution had failed to follow the law, by failing to serve paperwork on Beckham within the legal time limit.
Public opinion of Beckham’s acquittal has been largely negative, with some saying he has ‘taken advantage’ of the system. But shouldn’t we be more concerned with the conduct of the Prosecution, in serving paperwork late on someone in matters involving the criminal courts?
The legal time limits are set by Parliament. This means that they have been subjected to scrutiny and debate following which they have been deemed appropriate. Whilst Beckham was clearly responsible for speeding – he admitted this via his lawyer in Court – what everyone seems to have lost sight of is that the Prosecution didn’t follow the law either. If they had, the papers would have been served in time and Beckham would have been guilty of the speeding offence. What would have happened to someone who didn’t have a lawyer?
Comments about Beckham such as that he is “shirking his responsibility and getting off a speeding prosecution on a mere technicality” (Joshua Harris on behalf of Brake) take no account that the Prosecution also failed to meet their own legal obligations, to serve the papers in time. A representative for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said “speed limits are set for a reason. We hope David learns from this experience…” – the same can be said about the Prosecution. Time limits are set for a reason, no matter how famous the person accused of an offence may be.
Whether it is because they have failed to serve a speeding notice in time, or failed to provide vital disclosure in a rape case (a failing Liam Allen isn’t going to forget any time soon), the Prosecution should be held accountable. The law is the law, and it’s a long awaited shift in attitude to see the rules being enforced against both the Prosecution and the Defendant.