HAMPSHIRE'S road supremo has defended the county council's failure to deal with problems that could see thousands of speeding fines overturned after a landmark court ruling.

Councillor Mel Kendal told the Daily Echo the council and other members of the Safer Roads Partnership had not realised the signs were inaccurate.

It comes after a district judge ruled that speed limits along a section of the A27 in and around Fareham were not legally enforceable because they were not correctly signposted, as reported in yesterday's Daily Echo.

That meant 14 speeding prosecutions, including one against a motorist caught doing 70mph in a 40mph zone, failed.

Cllr Kendal said: "The whole partnership thought we were actually within the law.

"It is very complicated, but of course, we will now look at it as a matter of urgency once we have received the judge's report.

"One of our PCs has done an assessment throughout Hampshire. In many cases the signs are perfectly understandable, but we wouldn't put speed traps there because there are no accidents on those roads.

"The A27 has an accident record, which is why we put cameras there.

"I'm not prepared to have the road safety compromised. If there is a lesson to be learned from this then perhaps it is that we will go out the day before setting up a speed trap and do an inspection of the signs.

Cllr Kendal also refuted the possibility of the judgement meaning other motorists could demand their fines back and licences cleared.

That is despite the law governing speed limits saying no-one can be punished for breaking an incorrectly signed limit, as District Judge Philip Gillibrand ruled those on the A27 are.

Section 85 (4) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 states: "a person shall not be convicted of driving a motor vehicle on the road at a speed exceeding the limit unless the limit is indicated by means of such traffic signs as are mentioned elsewhere in the Act."

"My advice is that it has no effect on other motorists," said Cllr Kendal.

"The judgement only applies to the people who were appealing against their prosecution, so there's no change for anyone else."

District Judge Gillibrand criticised the "obvious failings" in the signage of the speed limits, and called on Hampshire County Council to urgently resolve the problem. During the case he had heard an experienced officer had told road safety chiefs of fears the signs were not correct, but that these concerns had been ignored and he had been advised to continue issuing penalties.

A detailed report from an expert witness commissioned by the defence team, served on the prosecution more than a year ago, also explained exactly why the speed limits were not legally enforceable.

That expert, Richard Bentley, believes the same problems with signs exist all over Hampshire, which he branded "a signing disaster zone".

Judge Gillibrand's ruling could open the way for anyone penalised for speeding on the same stretch of the A27 to appeal for their conviction to be overturned.