Letters from Supporters

Following our note to supporters of the AMPOW campaign asking them to write to Brandon Lewis, M.P., Minister of State for Policing, we received copies of a number of such letters. Thanks to all those who have written to Mr Lewis. Here are a few extracts that are particularly pertinent:

  1. From Ian Belchamber:

“Whatever anyone’s views on the rights or wrongs of “speeding” – which can include, these days, driving at a snail’s pace at 36 on a dual carriageway with safety barriers, no houses, and pedestrian / cycle areas separated from the road, two wrongs do not make a right and it is unacceptable for the police to behave dishonestly, and to exploit their powers for personal gain, break the law or their codes of conduct, etc., in enforcing the law.

Many partnerships were closed and jobs lost when partnership funding reduced a few years ago. Partnership managers had a choice – find a way to bring more money into the partnership, or potentially face the dole queue. This appalling and blatant conflict of interest would test those of the highest integrity and has led to the situation I first discovered in Dorset, a force I have been studying for more than 15 years. The DfT’s attempt to prevent the police getting their hands on the money was quickly overcome by the police using the law as a threat, then taking money instead and “overlooking” the offence.

Dorset is by far the worst – it has the highest course fee and the only force not to take part in NDORS meaning it keeps ALL the course money locally – a profit that I have had to estimate at 700% as transparency and accountability is refused.

When I asked the simplest of FOI questions, “could you please tell me the cost of course provision and what makes this up”, Dorset Police managed to turn this into a 2 year farce at no doubt some huge cost, which eventually managed to avoid providing proper answers – I have to assume, because the obscene profit

What you see here is a disease destroying the police, that has seeded from something that should never have been allowed to start – police personally gaining from “crime”. Think about it – that’s going to make them not want to stop the “crime” , but to keep it sustainable so they can continue to feed from it. Being able to use their “discretion” to fail to prosecute if payments are made directly to them, where that money provided jobs, empires, overtime, power. Of course it was all going to go wrong.

Consider also that as we have seen widespread speed limit reductions and this unprecedented level of driver “training” by the police over the last few years, we have seen a halt and reversal of long term casualty reduction. It doesn’t work. I even predicted this many years ago, it’s really simple, if the police put all their effort into taking money from the normal safe drivers who aren’t going to crash, road safety is going to suffer.

 ‘Attendance on the course is entirely voluntary’ – of course it isn’t! It is only a ‘choice’ as to have one finger cut off or two is a ‘choice’!

Yes, we need speed management on the roads of course, and there may even be a place for education instead of punishment for some driving problems as long as it is honest, transparent, and the conflicts of interest are properly declared and managed, but what we currently have is a grimy, dangerous, corrupt, money making scam and anyone who can’t see that just isn’t looking and they probably know it.

So the police offering not to prosecute in return for money is BAD, very bad indeed, not just for road safety, but for policing, and as I have discovered, wider authorities.”

Note that Ian maintains a web site at http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk where a lot more information is given as he has been campaigning on this matter for some years.

  1. From Malcolm Heymer:

“Your letter does not address the fundamental issue of whether it is legal for the police to waive prosecution in return for these payments. It is not disputed that the police have discretion to waive prosecution in favour of an alternative course of action such as a warning, but to do so in return for a payment is surely a perversion of justice.  If a driver attempted to bribe a police officer directly it would be a serious offence, but the police are effectively soliciting bribes, although many drivers are not aware that the police have a financial interest in offering them attendance at a course.

The origins of this unsatisfactory situation date back to the turn of the century, when the former Labour government rolled out nationally the cost-recovery system for ‘safety’ camera partnerships to fund their activities from the proceeds of their enforcement. This led to an explosion in the number of speeding fines issued and the size of the speed enforcement industry.  The government eventually realised the unintended consequences of the cost-recovery scheme and curtailed it, and the subsequent Coalition government further reduced the funding available for camera enforcement.  However, a great number of jobs within the camera partnerships and their equipment suppliers were by then dependent on payments made by speeding motorists.  The speed awareness course industry grew out of the need to replace that funding stream.

If you doubt the financial motives behind awareness courses, you may remember a couple of years ago that one of the major insurance companies announced it would increase the premiums for drivers who had been on a course in the same way as for those who had paid a fixed penalty. This caused panic within the speed enforcement industry, as one of the main reasons for drivers accepting the offer of a course was to avoid an increase in insurance costs.  If they were to be penalised in the same way as if they had been prosecuted, the incentive to take a course would be removed.

Police forces and organisations such as the Automobile Association (whose subsidiary Drive Tech is a major provider of awareness courses) vigorously attacked the insurance company’s decision, and sought to reassure drivers that other insurers would not follow suit. They did not mention, of course, their own financial interest in the matter.

Some police forces have raised the threshold up to which drivers are offered a course instead of a fixed penalty, and some have reduced the minimum period between repeat offenders being offered a second course. The purpose of these changes is to divert more drivers onto courses and raise more revenue to keep the camera partnerships in business.

I am not opposed to driver improvement courses per se. Indeed, I am a firm believer that education is much more effective than punishment.  But the cynical and, I believe, illegal abuse of speed awareness courses to maintain the growing speed enforcement industry is unacceptable.  I hope you will agree and will take a more robust position concerning the misuse of course fees.”

If you have not already written to Mr Lewis with your own comments on this issue, please do so now. Write to The Rt.Hon. Brandon Lewis, M.P., Minister of State for Policing, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF – it is preferable to do this by post as emails that mention “speed awareness” are blocked as spam by many ISPs.

So get writing now!

Roger Lawson

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