A BLUNDER by police who failed to properly check an image caught on a speed camera led to 12 months of hell for the man falsely accused.
The picture showed Noweed Parvez behind the wheel but white man Simon Maher was charged.
Burnley Crown Court heard letting company boss Parvez tried the pin the blame on the innocent father-of-four who was at home at the time with a broken vertebrae.
He lied to police that it was Mr Maher, of Darwen, who was driving to avoid a driving ban.
Parvez, 36, of Colne Road, Burnley, is now starting a 12 month jail sentence after admitting attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The court heard when Parvez was sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution but gave the victim's name and date of birth.
Mr Maher, also 36, was then convicted of the speeding offence in his absence and was distraught when a warrants officer later turned up at his home to arrest him.
He said: “When the officer called me and said he was taking me into custody I thought I was the subject of a practical joke.
“What made it even more ludicrous was the fact that at the time of the offence I had a broken vertebrae from an accident at work and was immobile and housebound.
“It was just one blunder after another.
"After I pleaded not guilty and it was set for trial I actually feared that I might go to jail. It was horrific, it could have torn my family apart.
“I felt helpless because even though I knew I was innocent things were moving towards me being convicted.
“I’m glad he’s gone to jail after what he put me and my wife Tracy through.”
Mr Maher suffered sleepless nights, weeks of stress and anxiety over what was happening to him and ended up before magistrates as he fought to clear his name.
He is now in correspondence with the Central Processing Unit of Lancashire Police who dealt with the speeding ticket and was 'keeping his options open' as to whether he would begin civil legal proceedings over his ordeal.
Michael Wallbank, prosecuting, said in November 2010, the defendant, who has 25 pervious offences, was caught on the camera speeding in Darwen in a Volkswagen Golf.
In December, he was sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution and returned it saying Simon Maher was driving at the time and gave his date of birth.
A notice was then sent to the victim but to a wrong address provided by the defendant, he failed to respond and was convicted in his absence by Hyndburn magistrates.
Mr Maher was eventually contacted and appeared before the court on warrant last September. He denied any involvement in the original offence and the case was adjourned for inquiries.
Mr Wallbank said last October 11, a police officer went to see Mr Maher, with photos taken at the time of the offence. It was confirmed he had not been at the wheel and Mr Maher was able to identify Parvez as the driver.
Last November, the defendant was interviewed by police and owned up. He claimed he had panicked as he already had points on his licence, thought he might be in danger of being disqualified and falsely declared Mr Maher was the driver to avoid prosecution.
Mr Maher said arrangements were made for him to attend Hyndburn court the following week and he didn't sleep with worry.
When he went to court, the charge was read out, he pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned until October 25.
Mr Maher claimed the prosecutor told him to 'plead guilty and stop wasting the court's time.'
Mr Maher said: "It wasn't until the traffic officer made inquiries I was cleared of any wrong-doing. Stress turned to anger at the way I was treated."
Nick Dearing, for Parvez, who was based in Oswaldtwistle, said he expressed great remorse for the fact Mr Maher had been 'dramatically inconvenienced and put to much stress.'
The solicitor said: "At the time of the offence, he had nine points on his licence. He needed his licence for his employment. To protect himself, he gave false details to avoid prosecution himself."
Sentencing, Recorder Michael Blakey told Parvez the offence was extremely serious. He said:" I would be failing in my public duty if I didn't come to the conclusion it's so serious that an immediate custodial sentence is justified."