The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act is Now Law

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act is now law as it has received Royal Assent. This Act includes the strengthening of police powers to tackle non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect on the public or on access to Parliament. For example demonstrations by such groups as Extinction Rebellion have closed roads, delayed emergency services and incurred millions of pounds in costs to the police. They have also been exceedingly noisy in some cases thus creating disruption and annoyance over a wide area.

The new Act does not stop peaceful demonstrations but it will hamper the activities of extremist organisations who wish to grab attention to their cause by creating disruption. It is surely therefore a positive move to clarify and reinforce the law in this area.

There are many aspects of criminal law tidied up in this Act but one negative aspect is Clause 67 of the Bill which provides a statutory footing for the charging of fees for courses offered as an alternative to prosecution for fixed penalty offences. It gives the police discretion to offer an educational course to a motorist who has committed a low-level driving offence. This is as an alternative to a fixed penalty or prosecution and avoids liability to a criminal conviction, penalty points and higher fine.

As we have pointed out this for the first time makes it legal for the police to solicit a payment to waive prosecution and can be used by the police to raise funds – for example to generate more offences by financing more speed cameras. See https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-awareness-courses.htm for more information.

The new Act also increases the maximum sentence for the offences of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs to a life sentence. There is also the creation of a new offence of causing serious injury by careless, or inconsiderate, driving. The offence is committed if a person causes serious injury by driving a car or other mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users. But the drafting is ambiguous. What is meant by “serious injury” and it could mean that a simple driving error can result in someone being sentenced to a custodial sentence.

These changes are unprincipled in nature and should not have been made.

Government explanation of the Act: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-factsheets/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-protest-powers-factsheet

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Driver Education Courses Increasing and the USA is Different

The number of speed cameras in the UK has been steadily rising and these are being financed by collecting money from drivers who do education courses such as “Speed Awareness” courses. In 2021 the number of drivers who took such courses to avoid fines and penalty points was 1.5 million. Apart from a drop in 2020 probably due to less driving in the pandemic this is similar to previous years so it appears that the scheme has had no impact on the level of offences. Likewise the impact on road casualties which was a justification for introducing speed cameras and associated education courses is not at all clear with road fatalities plateauing in the ten years prior to 2020. See chart below from DfT statistics.  

The Government (DfT) commissioned a study into the effectiveness of speed awareness courses which reported in May 2018. This is the key statement in the Executive Summary: “this study did not find that participation in NSAC [National Speed Awareness Courses] had a statistically significant effect on the number or severity of injury collisions”.

In reality speed cameras and the operation of education courses have just turned into a financial industry for the benefit of course operators and the police while drivers incur massive costs.

But the Bill that will clearly legalise them is still going through Parliament (the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill).

It is interesting that in the USA there is still strong opposition to the use of speed cameras although the new Biden administration is supporting them. In fact cameras are illegal in many US states at present and the National Motoring Association (NMA) is strongly opposed to them. See link to MSN article below. To quote from it: “New Jersey, State Senator Declan O’Scanlon told DailyMail.com that these are upsetting developments. Automated enforcement has proven to make no one any safer… but everyone (except the corrupt companies operating the systems) poorer,” O’Scanlon, a Republican, said Sunday. “It amounts to government sanctioned theft. Thank God New Jersey had the good sense to ban the use of automated enforcement early on…and then win a David vs Goliath battle to terminate our failed red light camera experiment. Any elected official that supports these systems is supporting screwing every one of his/her constituents that drives a car”. That’s the view of many people in the UK also.

UKROED Statistics: https://www.ukroed.org.uk/scheme/trends-statistics/

Speed Awareness Courses: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-awareness-courses.htm

MSN Article on Speed Cameras in the USA: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/the-speed-camera-nightmare-thats-coming-to-america/ar-AAThBF4

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Speed Awareness Courses to be Made Legal?

One of the aspects of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (see Reference 1 below) that is currently going through Parliament and which has largely gone unreported is Section 67 which covers education courses as an alternative to prosecution for motoring offences.

We have pointed out previously that the offer of speed awareness courses was likely to be illegal. It’s a perversion of justice to waive prosecution on payment of a sum of money, and there is no evidence that attending such a course has any impact on road safety. See Reference 2 below for a web site that gives a full explanation.

The new Bill does at least bring the use of such courses into law and allows the Secretary of State to regulate them. However it permits the police to set a fee that is higher than the cost of providing the course. Any such excess must be used for the purpose of promoting road safety, but that does include the provision of more speed cameras and police to operate them. So the gravy train of the industry of speed enforcement will continue, if not expand even further.

In conclusion, this will remain a dubious practice, with money driving the schemes not road safety.

Reference 1: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2839

Reference 2: https://www.speed-awareness.org/

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Dorset Police Spell Out the Money they Make from Speed Awareness Courses

Dorset police have said that “The Covid 19 Pandemic has significantly impacted on the receipts from the Driver Awareness Scheme and other income streams”. That includes a figure of £500,000 in lost income from driver awareness courses for the second quarter of 2020/2021 which it has not been able to run – see https://moderngov.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/documents/s22063/06%20-%20Q2%20Panel%20Finance%20Report.pdf . They have put in a “lost income claim” to cover the missing cash.

So the police (and significantly, the Dorset Police and Crime Panel), have the nerve to raid our taxes when due to some misfortune their money making activities sold to us as road safety have to be briefly suspended!!!!

Dorset Police are dependent on that income, cannot manage without it and refuse to listen to the facts that such courses do not save lives or reduce road accidents. The financial motivations they tell us don’t exist come before the concerns of reducing road death and serious injury and before the consideration of more suitable activities that might achieve it. This dishonesty and greed is costing lives.

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Road Policing and Making Money from Speeding

A very interesting report has recently been published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) under the title “Roads Policing: Not Optional”. It has some particularly interesting things to say about the use of speed cameras but is generally critical about the fall in attention to roads policing. Staff and other resources have been reduced over the last few years, with automated enforcement of speeding offences when all the other dangerous driving activities are ignored.

The chart below from the report shows how road fatalities in the UK have plateaued in the last ten years:

The report states bluntly that “Roads policing in some forces is inadequate”. It is clear that many police forces do not consider roads policing a priority. Fatal and serious injury road accidents where illegal speed is a factor (above the speed limit) also frequently feature a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and crime and hence are not amenable to automated enforcement. The ABD has long argued for more police officers to be deployed on our roads. Instead expenditure on roads policing has been cut and ever more emphasis is placed on speed enforcement when that is a factor in relatively few road casualty accidents. See the ABD Press Release below for more information.

The HMICFRS Report is particularly interesting on pages 28 to 30 where it discusses the financial arrangements associated with police speed camera operations. For example it says: “Crucially, what constitutes recovery of costs is

open to interpretation”. That hints, and quite correctly, that police forces are generating profits that are used on anything they choose as the ABD has previously claimed (see www.speed-awareness.org for details of the evidence). The report also suggests that police forces and local safety partnerships should publish on an annual basis the details of revenue and on what that revenue is spent.

The report also notes this: “This apparent unwillingness to support education over enforcement had led to suspicion among officers, including some at chief officer level, that the focus of activity was intended to increase revenue for the safety partnership. In support of this, they gave examples of some camera sites that they believed didn’t have a history of collisions or other identified vulnerabilities”. And “Elsewhere, we were told that the reason enforcement took place at certain locations was that they were ‘good hunting grounds’, rather than because they had a history of collisions”.

The report suggests that guidelines over how and where cameras are located should be refreshed. But the problem will remain that where there is a financial incentive, the abuse will continue as police forces continue to be short of money.

It is just too much of a temptation to concentrate on speed enforcement rather than focus on the road safety issues that might reduce deaths and injuries.

The whole system needs to be reformed to stop the abuses that cause millions of drivers to pay money to the police and the course operators for “education” which has not been shown to have any road safety benefit whatsoever.

The HMICFRS Report is available from here: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/publications/not-optional-an-inspection-of-roads-policing-in-england-and-wales/

ABD Press Release on the HMICFRS Report: https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-greed-cameras-exposed-in-new-police-watchdog-report/

Roger Lawson

(Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmpowABD )

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Speed Awareness Courses Suspended

Due to the Coronavirus epidemic, NDORS has suspended the scheme that offers speed awareness courses to drivers. This is to avoid the need for people to sit in classrooms with other people.

It is not clear what will happen to those people who have already been offered a course and accepted as they will now not be able to book a course venue unless the suspension is lifted quickly or the time limit to attend is extended.

See https://www.ukroed.org.uk/covid-19-coronavirus-update/ for more information.

Comment: this is undoubtedly a sensible decision but it would be even better if this whole system of extracting money from motorists by threats of prosecution was abandoned. They should be prosecuted if they have committed an offence. If that path was followed it’s likely that drivers would revolt and the whole illegal money-making scheme would collapse.

Roger Lawson

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Speed Awareness Courses Don’t Work

Yesterday (18/2/2020) the Daily Telegraph published an article by Lucy Denyer which was headlined “Speed awareness courses work, so let’s make them compulsory”. The article told how she attended a speed awareness course after being picked up driving above the speed limit in a 20-mph zone.

She reports that at least she learned that street lights on a road mean that the speed limit is always 30 mph, unless there are signs saying otherwise, which everyone should know of course. But she admits that 5 months later “I know I have forgotten most of what I learnt”. But she then says that we should stop making the courses a punishment, and make them compulsory instead. It is not clear how she expects that to happen. Perhaps as part of all learner driver training?

But the problem is that the speed awareness courses do not work and the only reason for their existence is to enable the police to collect a cut of the fees paid.

I actually had a letter published today in the Daily Telegraph which spelled it out. It said: “Speed awareness courses do not work – accidents are not reduced. This was made clear by a report published by the Department for Transport in 2018 after research by IPSOS-MORI.  The reason why the numbers attending speed awareness courses has gone up is simply that police forces like to make money in this way. They are permitted to take a cut of the fees paid”.

See the evidence here: https://speedawareness.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/no-benefit-from-speed-awareness-courses/  . This web site explains how this perversion of justice using the false justification of road safety to generate money has come about: https://www.speed-awareness.org/

Roger Lawson

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NDORS Reports Increased Education Courses

The ABD has been campaigning against the money generating industry of police waivers and speed awareness courses for some time. See link below for campaign information. NDORS who run the scheme that enables the police to extract money from innocent drivers without prosecutions have reported a new total of 1.49 million for last year for all such courses – that’s 3% up on the previous year – see https://www.ndors.org.uk/scheme/trends-statistics/

In addition an article in the Birmingham Mail makes it clear that the Police are now campaigning that all money from speeding fines should go to them, as used to be the case. That’s instead of to the Treasury where they currently go. Fines were redirected some years ago after obvious abuses had crept in such as the police siting cameras where they could catch the most infringers (such as open, straight stretches of road) rather than in the most dangerous road safety spots. See the Birmingham Mail article here for more information: https://tinyurl.com/vrgvtpf . We have written to the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner to point out how wrong he is to support such a proposal.

Anyone who wants to stop this illegal and money-grubbing activity by the police should contact their Member of Parliament.

See https://www.speed-awareness.org for more information and to sign up for our AMPOW campaign against the illegal use of police waivers to extract money from motorists in the name of road safety, when the evidence shows there is no such benefit.

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Speeding Fines are a Postcode Lottery

The Daily Mail has reported that not only are the number of speeding fines rising (up 37% since 2011/12) but the chance of being fined varies greatly depending on where you live. West Yorkshire police detected the most speeding offences in 2018/19 at 182,000 while Wiltshire police caught fewer than 1,000. The latter figure is accounted for by the fact that all speed cameras in Wiltshire were turned off in 2010.

Note that almost all speeding offences are detected by cameras and 44% of those identified are offered and accept a speed awareness course. In terms of the overall number of motoring offences, which were 2.8 million in 2018/19, speeding accounted for 84% of them. That means over 1 million people paid for a speed awareness course from which a proportion of the money is retained by the police. You can see why they are so keen to maintain this racket when there is no evidence that attending a speed awareness course improves a driver’s accident record.

See https://www.speed-awareness.org for more information and to sign up for our AMPOW campaign against the illegal use of police waivers to extract money from motorists.

See https://tinyurl.com/t94xtof for the Daily Mail article which gives more details.

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Repeat Offenders from Speed Awareness Courses

We have reported on the ineffectiveness of speed awareness courses in the past. There is no evidence that they cut accidents and that was confirmed in a report published by the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2018 – see below.

Further evidence on their ineffectiveness in influencing behaviour has been reported from a survey by Kwik Fit of 2,000 drivers. They note that as many as 40 per cent of drivers who have been on a speed awareness course are caught breaking the limit again.

Only a quarter of drivers think that going on a speed awareness course is effective, which compares with all the positive claims about their effectiveness from course organisers. The latter clearly have a vested interest in promoting the wonders of such courses as a road safety measure when in reality there is no impact at all. They just provide a slush fund for the police and a nice income for course operators.

See https://tinyurl.com/w8jhg4m for information on the DfT report.

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