A man and a woman who took part in a business to help people escape penalties for speeding tickets could have cost innocent people their licences – and even their jobs.
Jason Sallis and Sarah Beddow were finally caught after the large number of speeders supposedly living at the same address in Leamington was spotted.
Sallis, 47, of Blondvil Street, Coventry, and Beddow, 32, of Jubilee Fields, Stockton, near Southam, both pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
Sallis, who only entered his pleas on the day of his trial, was jailed for three years.
But mother-of-two Beddow, who had pleaded guilty more than a year ago, was given a 15-month sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.
Prosecutor Philip Brunt said: “This case involves notices of intended prosecution being sent out to people for speeding offences, and then those notices being given a false nominated driver, with an address in Dale Street, Leamington in common to them all.”
He explained that 38 speeding offences committed in Warwickshire, the West Midlands, and as far apart as Surrey and West Yorkshire, supposedly involved drivers living at the multi-occupancy house in Dale Street.
Notices of intended prosecution were sent out to the registered keepers of cars which were caught speeding, and in each case they were returned naming another person as the driver.
So a notice was then sent to that person at the Dale Street address, and in some cases there was no reply, but in others the notice was returned agreeing they were the offender.
But Mr Brunt said the names being falsely entered were real people who, as a result of the scam, ended up being fined and having penalty points on their licences.
One man, Christopher Cortopassi, received a letter, having been traced through the DVLA, to say he had been fined for speeding in West Yorkshire.
He suffered stress and anxiety, fearing it had been someone at work who had given his details, and being worried when driving company vehicles because of the points on his licence.
And he had to attend court hearings to swear he was not the driver before finally proving his innocence, as did another person who was named, Olivia Godfrey from Rugby.
She was on maternity leave at the time, but feared she would lose her job, which involved driving around the country, because of the number of points she ended up with on her licence.
The protestations of people who had been falsely named led the police to realise that they all supposedly lived at the address in Dale Street.
And checks on 38 notices which had given that address revealed Sallis’s fingerprints on 16 of them, and Beddow’s prints on four.
Mr Brunt said Sallis was charging £150 a time to make the speeding offences ‘go away,’ while Beddow’s role was to refer people who had been caught speeding to him.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano asked what had happened to the 36 people who had taken up the illegal service.
She was told they had been questioned, but a decision was taken not to prosecute them for perverting the course of justice, and it was beyond the time limit for them to be dealt with for the original speeding offences – so they had got away with it, as they had intended.
Ian Windridge, for Sallis, said: “It is human nature to try to avoid the consequences of one’s actions. Most people choose to do that by legal means. Mr Sallis accepts he did not. He knows an immediate sentence is the only outcome.”
He explained that Sallis had become involved when he had a speeding ticket and was put in touch with someone he referred to as SP, after which he began doing it himself, but was only responsible for 16 of the 38 false documents.
John Evans, for Beddow, said it was known Sallis was able to deal with tickets, and she had become ‘a route through which people could make those enquiries.’
Arguing for a suspended sentence, he said she has a responsible job as an accounts assistant earning a decent wage, had no other convictions, and has two young children.
Sentencing them, Judge de Bertodano told them: “You two worked together in a system where you effectively helped people who got speeding tickets to get out of them by giving false details saying someone else had been driving.
“The result is that the police then pursue the other person, and the original speeder gets away with it.”
Of the innocent motorists who ended up with points on their licences, she commented: “They felt completely helpless. They were stuck in a Kafkaesque nightmare where no-one believed them, and they were in danger of losing their driving licences which in some cases were their livelihoods.”
The judge said she accepted Beddow had played ‘a lesser role,’ and told her: “My real concern is your small children. To take their mother away from them for months and months at this stage in their lives is not something I would feel comfortable with doing.”