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Is it illegal to tape over the lens of a speed camera thus preventing it from working?

One would assume that this is the case but if you apply the tape in such a way that it does no damage I can't think of any law that one could be prosecuted under.

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    In Canada/USA/Scotland it would likely fall under the "catch-all" property crime of Mischief. (messing with property that isn't yours, outside of theft or vandalism). Incidentally, in Canada, photo radar cameras have gone back and forth between being removed for being "unjust", and being reinstalled in some places. Here's some old tips on defending yourself against a speed camera ticket. – ashleedawg Jul 4 at 2:46
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Yes, taping over a speed camera lens would be illegal.

The UK common law offense of Perverting the Course of Justice would cover (pun intended) this conduct. Common law offenses are not defined by statute (a law promulgated by Parliament or a local government authority), but instead arise from the history of law as applied by the courts.

This secondary source says the offense occurs when one is shown to have:

  • acted or embarked on a course of conduct
  • which has a tendency to
  • and is intended to
  • pervert the course of public justice

Other discussions of the offense can be found on Wikipedia, LexisNexis, and many other webpages that may easily be found with a Google search.

Here's a recent case where a driver was imprisoned for three months for fitting his car with a radar jammer that prevented the car from being "seen" by the radar installation.

Thus, if the police can identify the person who made the speed camera ineffective by blocking the camera's lens, that person would be subject to criminal prosecution and punishment.

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    @Persistence There have been prosecutions for erecting signs etc whose only property is that they "may distract drivers," without interfering with the operation of anything such as a speed camera as well. For example many speed cameras are designed to be conspicuous by their shape and colour, so camouflaging one with a mask would arguably be interfering with its function as a deterrent to speeding. – alephzero Jul 1 at 23:32
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    @Persistence I think it's quite likely that in the scenario you posit, the magistrate or judge would chuckle at the defendant's naiveté, disbelieve the statement, and return a judgment of guilty. – DavidSupportsMonica Jul 1 at 23:36
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    @Persistence based on my answer, any attempt to deliberately obscure the cameras view would be classed as criminal damage, because you are impairing its value or usefulness. – Moo Jul 1 at 23:44
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    @gnasher729 interestingly enough, the 25% figure used to be because the cameras ran out of film, and were only serviced on a set basis - so once it was out of film... Today, with digital cameras, the cameras themselves are so expensive that they are literally moved around from housing to housing on a rotation, so again even though we dont have a film problem anymore, its the same outcome... – Moo Jul 2 at 0:40
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Jul 3 at 15:26
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In addition to Davids answer, you would face charges of Criminal Damage, based on these notes from the Crown Prosecution Service:

Damage is not defined by the Act. It should be widely interpreted to include not only permanent or temporary physical harm, but also permanent or temporary impairment of value or usefulness - Morphitis v. Salmon [1990] Crim.L.R 48.

Any alteration to the physical nature of the property concerned may amount to damage within the meaning of the section. The courts have construed the term liberally and included damage that is not permanent such as smearing mud on the walls of a police cell. Where the interference amounts to an impairment of the value or usefulness of the property to the owner, then the necessary damage is established - R v Whiteley [1991] 93 CAR 25.

https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/criminal-damage

So permanent damage is not required - the act of applying temporary tape would almost certainly be prosecuted as criminal damage.

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  • What if someone were to place an object in such a fashion as to obstruct the camera's view, but did not actually touch the camera in any way whatsoever? – supercat Jul 2 at 17:28
  • @supercat thats already covered in the above quotes - “ Where the interference amounts to an impairment of the value or usefulness of the property to the owner, then the necessary damage is established“. – Moo Jul 2 at 19:17
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    That quote says "any alteration of the physical nature of the property". Hanging something on a camera might alter its physical nature, but I don't think that placing an object in front of the camera without touching it could in any way qualify as "alteration to [its] physical nature". – supercat Jul 2 at 21:44
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    @supercat the camera needs an unobstructed view to operate, if you deliberately obstruct that view, that is the same thing wherever and however you do that. Placing an object infront of the camera is the same in this instance as placing an object over the lens directly. – Moo Jul 2 at 21:47
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    @supercat even flashing your lights to warn other motorists will get you prosecuted newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/01/… wilfully blocking the camera and you've no chance. – Pete Kirkham Jul 3 at 10:29

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