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Lowestoft man's anger over fine for not wearing seatbelt

PUBLISHED: 12:00 31 December 2010 | UPDATED: 13:17 31 December 2010

Austin Musgareve-Brown was givena fixed penalty ticket for briefly undoing his seatbelt while sat stationary traffic at Lowestoft's Bascule Bridge.

Austin Musgareve-Brown was givena fixed penalty ticket for briefly undoing his seatbelt while sat stationary traffic at Lowestoft's Bascule Bridge.

Archant © 2010

A Lowestoft man has lodged an official complaint with Suffolk police after being fined for unfastening his seatbelt while he waited for the town's bascule bridge to reopen.

Austin Musgrave-Brown, 67, of Uplands Road North, was sitting in his car in stationary traffic with his engine switched off and handbrake applied, when he unfastened his seat-belt as he waited for the bridge to come down.

Despite belting up again before he drove off, he was stopped by the police and given a £60 fine for failing to wear his belt.

For the past two-and-a-half months he has been involved in a battle with senior officers over the fixed penalty notice.

And having been so dissatisfied with his treatment, Mr Musgrave-Brown – who has a clean licence – has now lodged an official complaint with the force.

Mr Musgrave-Brown said the incident happened on Saturday, October 9, while he and his wife, Lena, were driving south on the A12, away from Lowestoft town centre, and the bridge was raised to allow two yachts to pass.

“There were about four or five cars in front of us and I could tell that we were going to be waiting for at least five minutes and probably more,” said Mr Musgrave-Brown. “I applied the handbrake, stopped the engine and took off my seatbelt.

“When the bridge came down, I put my seatbelt back on before starting the engine and continuing.”

But having travelled less than half a mile, he was pulled over by an unmarked police car and was issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for £60 for driving without a seatbelt.

Mr Musgrave-Brown, a retired Hoseasons sales executive who now works part-time as a driver for John Grose, claimed this week: “At no time was I ever driving without a seatbelt; the only time I did not have it on was when we were stationary at the bridge, with the handbrake on and the engine switched off.”

When Mr Musgrave-Brown queried this point with the officer, he says she told him that he should have kept his seatbelt on to ensure he that he did not suffer whiplash injuries if his vehicle was hit from behind.

“The police have been so over the top with this, it’s absolutely ridiculous. Surely the officer could have shown some common sense and told me to put the belt on without treating me as a petty crook, as I did not drive the car an inch without the seatbelt on.

“It would have been very easy for me to accept everything and not do anything about it, but I was appalled at the way I was treated by Suffolk police and I felt that if they can book me they can book others,” he added.

“The whole thing is just crassly stupid.”

A Suffolk police spokesman yesterday confirmed that a complaint had been received and the Professional Standards Department was now dealing with the matter. “Suffolk police have received an official complaint and this is being investigated,” the spokesman said.

It is likely that the investigation will take another three weeks.

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