THOUSANDS of North-East speeding convictions issued up to six years ago could be overturned after a driver appealed on a legal technicality.

Dr Will Dehany appealed after he was clocked by an undercover camera van doing 35mph along Worsall Road, in Yarm, near Stockton.

The road has a 30mph speed limit, and magistrates fined Dr Dehany - who was driving his wife's Opel Astra hatchback - and imposed three penalty points on his licence.

But the angry driver immediately lodged an appeal, claiming that his speeding notification had been signed by a clerk and not the chief constable of Cleveland Police.

Yesterday, his conviction was successfully overturned by Judge Peter Bowers sitting at Teesside Crown Court.

Campaigners said last night that drivers caught speeding in Cleveland could now apply for their fines to be refunded. If that happens, the force may have to hand back millions of pounds-worth of speeding fines to more than 100,000 drivers.

Dr Dehany, 52, of Pennyman Green, Maltby, Teesside, said a key fault in the case was that the Section 172 notice issued by Cleveland Police requesting the car owner identify the driver could not be determined to have come from the chief constable, as stated in law.

He said it did not say anything other than Cleveland Police on the documents, and the woman who had issued them was a clerk, who was not authorised to do so.

As a result, every ticket issued by the clerk since the launch of the Cleveland Camera Partnership in 2000 could be deemed invalid.

Dr Dehany said the administrator issuing notices was also supposed to review the evidence before deciding to prosecute.

He said: "I expected to win because the evidence was pretty overwhelming. Everything was wrong about this case.

"I would not recommend that people try to get off speeding fines on technicalities, but this was not just a technicality, it was an abuse of police power."

Dr Dehany said he first realised the case was flawed after he asked to view the picture of the speeding car, in order to determine whether he or his wife was driving.

But the picture, taken in October 2004, also contained another vehicle.

He asked the police how they knew it was his wife's car that was speeding, as opposed to the other vehicle, and was unhappy with the answer he received.

The father-of-two decided to seek the advice of a lawyer.

He discovered the paperwork was wrong, as was the operation of the Gatso meter, which recorded the speed.

Dr Dehany added: "If I had lost today, it would have cost me about £1,000, and that's why nobody appeals, because only a fool like me is prepared to lose £1,000.

"I did it for the common man and for justice for motorists everywhere."

Paul Smith, of the Safe Speed campaign, which opposes fixed cameras, said: "Defects in prosecution cases are far too commonplace.

"All those convicted in Cleveland since 2000 on the basis of faulty procedure should now apply to have their fines refunded, licence points removed, and, in many cases, to be compensated for consequential losses."

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: "We note the judgement of the court, but, until we have time to consider it in detail, it would not be appropriate to comment."