England, Wales and Northern Ireland
The sale, purchase and installation of a Snooper is perfectly legal. The use of one until recently may have contravened the 1949 Wireless and Telegraphy Act but a judgement of the Queens Bench Divisional Court dated 29th January 1998 makes it clear that the use of Radar Detectors is not unlawful as has hitherto been claimed by some.
In the past a few prosecutions have been brought by claiming the use of radar detectors was contrary to section 5(b)(i) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 as amended by section 3 of the Post Office Act 1969. However the Acts refer to the interception of wireless communications for the purpose of obtaining information as to the content, sender or addressee of any message.
The Court concluded that the radar transmission was not communicating a ‘message’ and therefore equipment designed to detect the presence of the transmission could not decode any such message.
It was further stated that section 1(1) of the Act, which requires a licence for the reception of radio signals, has been superseded by the Wireless Telegraphy Apparatus (Receivers)(Exemption) Regulations (SI 1989 No123) which exempts radar detectors and similar equipment from the need for such licences.
This case is reported in The Times on Feb 18, 1998, page 41 under the heading “Radar speed guns do not send message”. Unfortunately The Times now charges for access to its archives and we can no longer link to the full story but you can purchase the extract yourself here, its about the 63 article down the page.
January 2005 Update At the moment the government are debating making radar detectors illegal, something they have been considering since 1998 when they were proved not to be illegal under the 1949 Wireless & Telegraph Communications Act. It has taken 6 years for them to get around to discussing it in the House of Commons as part of an up and coming Road Safety Bill, and providing it passes all readings in the various Houses, and assuming that a general election does not get in the way, then it may become law later this year.
We understand that this proposal is aimed at radar detectors and laser jammers, not GPS based units. The difference is that the GPS devices are a collection of data already in the public domain. They want people to know where the cameras are, which is why they are painted yellow and locations are published on police and local council websites for all to see. The cameras are at designated dangerous sites, and this is what the GPS devices alert you to. It is the fact that radar detectors can tell you whether some cameras are active or not that is the difference the Government wants to outlaw.
At the moment these products are legal to sell, buy, own and use. Any change to this situation is currently just speculation and no specifics have been confirmed or date set. There is likely, in any case, to be a time delay – they would not be outlawed immediately, so there would be time for people to make use of their detectors before any ban is implemented. As you may have noticed these types of product are still widely available.
There has been a second reading in the House of Commons but the issue of Radar Detectors, which is just a small part of the Road Safety Bill, was only touched on and there has still been no confirmation of any change in the law as yet. We will keep you updated as and when there is any further news.
The above case has not been tried in the Scottish courts but it has set a precedent which we believe would be followed. Radar detectors are widely sold and used in Scotland.
Republic of Ireland
Radar detectors are legal to own but illegal to be found using.
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We will not be held responsible for any prosecution brought about by the use of a radar detector or for any motoring offence however arising in the UK or abroad and advise you to seek professional legal advice on all matters of law.
We will not be held responsible for knowing the legal situation with regard to every country worldwide and advise you against purchasing one should you know they are illegal where you live.
We will not be held responsible for the loss of any radar detector sent abroad to anywhere were they are illegal or for any prosecution as a result.