A ROW is brewing over a controversial speed camera site in West Dorset after challenges over its accuracy.

Two drivers flashed by the westbound camera on the A35 at Chideock took up the fight in the courts after claiming road markings which corroborate the camera evidence were incorrect.

Magistrates have yet to come to a decision in one of the cases involving a former police officer but Paul Snowball, of Portland, is delighted after his case was thrown out due to a lack of evidence before a trial was due to start.

This was because a witness from the camera team wasn’t available when the case was ready to be heard and Weymouth magistrates refused to adjourn.

District Crown Prosecutor Roger Hall said: “Without the witness present the case could not proceed and we were left no alternative but to offer no evidence and the case was dismissed.”

Although Mr Snowball cannot claim a victory as such, he is seeking to highlight the issue and believes there should be a review of the Chideock camera.

The same camera was at the centre of controversy when it emerged it had illegally caught thousands of motorists between 1997 and 2007 due to an administrative blunder, which referred to the A35 junction with Seatown Road when it should have been Duck Street.

Last month the camera was set on fire in an arson attack and had to be replaced.

Salesman Mr Snowball, aged 53, of Castle Road, Portland, regularly drives through Chideock to attend Lyme Regis Town Band practices and concerts.

In February this year he was driving in a convoy of five vehicles that were ‘all hovering around the 30mph mark’ when the Chideock camera flashed once.

He received a notice of prosecution shortly after informing him he had been clocked at 38mph.

Mr Snowball said: “I just knew it couldn’t be right so I looked into the issue.”

His investigations revealed that according to the Road Traffic Act, road markings at camera sites have to be evenly spaced and be 5ft apart.

Mr Snowball visited Chideock with a tape measure and found the distance between the first and second marking was 4ft 6ins. He later measured the 19 other markings which he found were anything between 4ft 8ins and 5ft apart.

On this basis he pleaded not guilty and was going to argue, with the help of photographs, that the markings were ‘illegal’ because they did not conform to the Road Traffic Act.

After the case was dismissed, Mr Snowball – who did not attend the hearing due to a mix-up over dates – said: “I believe there should be a review of the camera because we’re not talking about a tiny error here.

“I don’t disagree with speed cameras in the right place. What I take issue with is that if we as motorists have to follow the letter of the law then surely the people that put these things in place should do as well. We have to know where we stand. Make it legal if you want us to be legal.”

Pat Garrett, head of safety, education and enforcement services at Dorset Police, said: “Whenever we get an issue about a camera site we will look at it and take appropriate action if required.

“With regards to Chideock, I’m happy we’re operating at the site legally. From an operational point of view the markings fall within the guidelines.”

Mr Garrett said there was a certain amount of ‘tolerance’ when it came to the spacing of markings.

He added: “If someone wants to challenge that it’s up to a court to make a decision.”

It was revealed last week the number of fixed cameras will be reduced in Dorset due to government funding cuts.

Mr Garrett hinted the two cameras at Chideock would stay because of concerns in the community about speed and their role in casualty reduction.