When a friend and I were out for a walk yesterday, we came across this sign.
The wording on the warning sign
Warning against trespass. It is a criminal offence to trespass on the guided busway (on foot or by causing or permitting a vehicle to be on it without permission) or to trespass on associated land which is in close proximity to the busway.
Just to clarify first what a guided busway is. It is a road accessible only to buses. It has raised concrete rails that run the length of it and the bus runs between (not on) the rails. I am not sure whether a bus driver could wrench the wheel and jump the rails, but I doubt it.
The advantage of guided busways for buses is that they do not have to compete with other traffic, and can speed along. And when they get to the end of the busway on entering a town, they continue on the normal road.
There are about fifteen busways in the UK and the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway that connects Cambridge, Huntingdon and St Ives is 16 miles (25km) long.
And you might have guessed that it is built on the route of the now defunct railway line that ran this way.
The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway is the longest guided busway in the world.
I had no idea it was the longest until I saw it in Wikipedia when I looked up how many busways there are in the UK.
You might be wondering exactly where the guided busway is in this photograph?
Well, it is more or less at the line of trees that you can see in the background running across the scene.
So this is a warning to anyone who might choose to walk down that footpath, that at some point they are going to be in close proximity to the guided busway.
What is the definition of ‘close proximity’? After all, there is a footpath that runs alongside some if not all of the length of the guided busway. So, being on the footpath cannot be ‘in close proximity’.
It is a criminal offence
Our first thought on seeing the sign was that it was wrong because generally speaking, trespass is not a crime.
The Crown Prosecution Service administers and prosecutes criminal cases in the England and Wales. On its website, the section on trespass begins with the sentence “Trespass is not of itself a criminal offence.”
But in this case, trespass is a criminal offence because the Cambridge Busway has its very own Order made in Parliament under the title ‘The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway Order 2005’ which reads:
Trespass on busway system
44.—(1) Any person who—
(a)trespasses on the authorised guided busway; or
(b)trespasses upon any land of the undertaker in dangerous proximity to the authorised guided busway or to any electrical or other apparatus used for or in connection with the operation of the authorised guided busway,
shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(2) For the purposes of this article, trespassing on the authorised guided busway includes causing or permitting a vehicle to be upon any part of the authorised guided busway which is not a public carriageway without permission.
(3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under this article unless it is shown that a notice warning the public not to trespass upon the authorised guided busway was clearly exhibited and maintained at the station or other stopping place or level crossing on the authorised guided busway nearest the place where the offence is alleged to have been committed.
So basically, under paragraph (3) there has to be a warning notice at every station or other stopping place or level crossing.
So what is the purpose of the notice in the photograph that we saw? It cannot be in lieu of a notice at the named places because the Order is quite specific as to what constitutes the placing of a warning notice.
And what is the relationship between ‘close proximity’ mentioned in the warning we saw, and ‘dangerous proximity’ in the Order?
This is the kind of disparity that a defence lawyer would examine, looking for a hole in the chain of culpability.
These questions constitute the daily stuff of lockdown…