Police in Scotland Abandon Plans for Speed Awareness Courses

According to a report in the Herald newspaper, police in Scotland have shelved plans to introduce speed awareness courses in the country like they operate in England. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has of course campaigned against the misuse of police waivers and the perversion of justice involved in the police extracting cash by inducing the payment of a bribe to waive prosecution. See our AMPOW campaign here: https://www.speed-awareness.org/ . Only recently a Government commissioned study showed there was no benefit whatsoever in terms of casualty reduction from sending millions of people on speed awareness courses every year.

The Scottish Police Authority have suggested that they have “deprioritised” the introduction of such courses on financial grounds as they would require substantial investment in new IT facilities. But could it be that they have realised how legally dubious the operation of the system in England really is? The ABD has made representations on this subject to the senior legal authorities in Scotland who would have to give permission for the operation of such a scheme. Perhaps this is a case where the police in Scotland have simply been persuaded that it is a step too far?

All we need now is for the UK Government in Westminster to recognise the same reality.

See the Herald story here for more information: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16600735.police-put-brakes-on-plans-to-drop-fines-for-speed-awareness-courses/?action=success#comments-feedback-anchor

Roger Lawson

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

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No Benefit From Speed Awareness Courses

The Department for Transport (DfT) have, after a long delay, published the Ipsos-MORI report that they commissioned into the effectiveness of speed awareness courses. 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 other words, as the Alliance of British Drivers has repeatedly said, this unethical and legally dubious diversion of drivers to speed awareness courses is primarily about generating money, not about road safety because there is no evidence of any real benefit. Indeed drivers who have attended such courses might be interested in another statement in the report: “the NSAC was not designed to reduce the incidence of collisions”. So what exactly is the objective one might ask as it appears not to be focussed on improving road safety?

Was the study too small to produce statistically significant results? Not exactly because the records of 2.2 million drivers, of whom 1.4 million had accepted a course offer, were studied over a period of 4 years. This data was linked to subsequent speed reoffending and involvement in collisions to produce the report’s conclusions. That’s a large sample.

The only impact they found was that there was a minor reduction in reoffending after involvement in an NSAC, but that is surely hardly surprising because drivers might simply take more care about speeding after being caught for one offence because you cannot be offered a second NSAC within 3 years. Alternatively perhaps some drivers simply go out and purchase a device or software that warns them about cameras.

The report argues that an even bigger study might prove there is some benefit but the proponents of such courses are surely clutching at straws if they think that expense is worthwhile.

Regardless we suggest speed awareness courses should cease to be a money-making industry for ex-police and road safety officers and should only be offered to people who are actually convicted of speeding offences. Otherwise they are just a way to bribe the police to look the other way when an offence is committed (a waiver of prosecution as they call it). That’s corruption and a perversion of justice!

Regrettably the invention by the police of education courses and the associated “waivers of prosecution” has resulted in the financing of ever greater numbers of speed cameras, with empires being built within the police and in commercial organisations that are financed by the cut they get out of the fees paid by course attendees. In reality this diversion of resources from tackling real road safety issues has been detrimental to improving road safety in the UK. Most drivers do not realise that attending a course actually helps to finance more cameras and hence more chance they will face a real prosecution in future for a trivial offence.

The ABD’s campaign against this illegality is documented on this web site which explains the history, the financial arrangements and the evidence of police profiteering: http://www.speed-awareness.org/

The Ipsos-MORI report can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-speed-awareness-course-impact-evaluation

Roger Lawson

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

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Zero Tolerance on Speeding Advocated

A lot of publicity has been given to the call by Anthony Bangham, Chief Constable of West Mercia Police, for zero tolerance on those who exceeed speed limits. He appeared to suggest in a speech to the Police Federation that the existing system of allowing drivers to exceed the speed limit of 10% plus 2 mph should be abandoned. In other words if you are doing 33 mph, or even less, in a 30 mph zone then you should be prosecuted. He also suggested that speed-awareness courses were being used too often as an alternative to prosecution.

Mr Bangham is the road policing lead for the National Police Chief’s Council so his words might have some weight. But even other police officers have criticised the zero tolerance approach on both practical grounds and the probability that it might undermine public attitudes to the police.

There are of course other difficulties. Would a prosecution for driving at 31 mph in a 30 zone stand up in court? Probably not if challenged because speed camera manufacturers don’t claim perfect accuracy and there are often factors that can distort the reading to some extent.

There is also the difficulty for drivers that speedometers may not be accurate, and speed limits are often now set unreasonably low for political reasons by local councillors.

Those who support Mr Bangham’s stance, and particularly Police and Crime Commisioners, should recall what happened to the former Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Olly Martins. He was reported in the Daily Telegraph on the 4th November 2015 as planning to switch on speed cameras permanently on the M1 and set them at 70 mph under a “zero tolerance” approach. This was expected to generate “up to a million pounds for his cash strapped force”.  Mr Martins also spoke to the Commons Home Affairs Committee on “Reform of Police Funding” on the 3rd November 2015 where he said, after complaining about shortages in Police funding, that “I am now looking at things like turning on the HADECS cameras on the M1 and driving revenue from that, looking at sponsorship opportunities: does someone want to sponsor panda cars, our police officers’ uniforms, so any….” at which point he was interrupted. But it is clear that he thought financing the police in general from Speed Awareness Course fees was acceptable. Mr Martins failed to get re-elected in 2016, after wide publicity on his views.

But this idea still has legs. It was recently stated by the local Derbyshire “Casualty Reduction Enforcement Support Team” that on the new smart motorway section of the M1 near Sheffield (junctions 32 to 35A) that the cameras would be turned on all the time and the 70 mph limit would be enforced at all times (i.e. 24 hours per day). Many people consider the 70 mph speed limit to be ridiculously low on modern motorways, particularly when traffic is light but of course there is a strong financial incentive to follow Mr Martins approach.

Note that Anthony Bangham is also Chairman of charity the Road Safety Trust (he took over from Suzette Davenport). That organisation controls UK ROED Ltd who administer the NDORS scheme and who receive £5 from each speed awareness course attendee – see http://www.speed-awareness.org/profits.html for the labrythine financial structure of these operations.

Perhaps needless to point out that there is an obvious conflict of interest in Mr Bangham advocating zero tolerance when he is Chairman of an organisation that directly financially benefits from more people attending speed awareness courses!

Comment: Bearing in mind that the police now don’t bother to pursue minor crimes such as shoplifting or burglary due to staff shortages, is it not odd that a senior policeman adopts this stance on the “victimless” crime of speeding. Zero tolerance applied to all crime would be both enormously expensive and morally dubious. As one of my contacts said, perhaps it’s a case of “Police can NOT catch the Criminals – so they Criminalise the Catchables” with automated enforcement systems. And as we have pointed out in our AMPOW campaign, this has led to corruption of the police because of their ability to generate cash from speed-awareness courses.

Postscript: The day after the above article was written, the Sunday Times reported that they had monitored the speed of traffic outside the headquarters of the West Mercia Police. More than 100 cars per hour were breaking the speed limit. The article noted that “The speed trap revealed the cash mountain that awaits if Bangham’s policy is implemented”. It also contained comments from ABD Director Ian Taylor pointing out how impractical it was to have zero tolerance.

Roger Lawson

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

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

 

Report on Speed Awareness Course Delayed

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, as the Government commissioned research by IPSOS-MORI into the effectiveness of speed awareness courses seemed to be delayed as it is well past when it was expected to report, I submitted an FOI Act request. I have now received a response.

The answer is that the research has been completed and a draft report was received by the DfT in December. It is being “prepared for publication” which is likely to be in the spring.

Why should it take so long before being published? Probably because it needs extensive massaging to come out with the right answer I suggest. You should not expect this to be an unbiased or scientifically sound study of the issue.

Roger Lawson

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

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New Record for Speeding Education Income

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been campaigning against the abuse of police waivers and the offer of speed awareness courses. The latest figures disclosed by NDORS show that the number of courses undertaken increased to a new record of 1.26 million in 2017. In other words, last year even more drivers were blackmailed into taking a course with the threat of a fine or points on their licence. This is despite the fact there is no hard evidence that such courses have any impact on driver behaviour (a Government commissioned study into their impact seems have been delayed in reporting for unexplained reasons).

The result of these high numbers attending courses is that the police are now receiving £57 million as their proportion of the fees charged on an annual basis. They and NDORS claim that this only covers administrative costs but that is simply not true (the evidence is available on our campaign web site at www.speed-awareness.org). The police are using these fees as a slush fund to finance whatever they want, including the provision of more cameras so that they can rake in even more money from motorists.

The ABD suggests this has nothing to do with road safety but is about generating money for the police to support their shrinking budgets and is of course actively promoted by those in the burgeoning speed camera and course education industry where enormous profits are being made.

There is no evidence that this concentration on speed is having any impact on road safety – it cannot do so for reasons the ABD explained in a previous press release here: http://www.abd.org.uk/the-hidden-truth-behind-statistics-used-to-justify-speed-enforcement-priorities/

The ABD suggests that the Government should put a stop to this abuse of the criminal justice system forthwith. It is in essence a perversion of justice in the cause of police funding.

More information:

  1. The latest data on the number of courses is present on the NDORS web site here: https://ndors.org.uk/trends-stats/ (NDORS are the national scheme operators).
  2. The number of standard NSAC courses rose from 1,188,961 in 2016 to 1,195,356 in 2017.
  3. The number of NSAC 20 courses (for infringement of 20 mph speed limits), doubled from 17,139 to 34,471.
  4. The number of NMSAC courses (for infringement of motorway speed limits was 30,030. It was zero the previous year because this was a new course.
  5. More information on the background to this speed awareness industry and the profits it makes are present on the AMPOW (Against the Misuse of Police Waivers) web site here:  http://www.speed-awareness.org/
  6. For more information please contact Roger Lawson, Campaign Director, on 020-8295-0378.

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

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Speed Awareness Courses in Scotland

More than one newspaper has reported that speed awareness courses may be implemented in Scotland. To date the system of police waivers and course offers has only been used in England and Wales, with more than one million drivers now doing one every year.

This is despite the fact that there is no hard evidence that they change driver’s behaviour. The Government commissioned IPSOS-MORI to provide a report on such courses early in 2017 and it was due to report later in the year but has not done so. Did they not manage to produce the right answer one wonders? I have today submitted an FOI Act request to the Department for Trade (DfT) asking what has happened to it and also asking for a copy of the report if they have received it.

The Scottish Government have been advised by Lord Advocate James Wolff, QC that they could be authorised – he is the head of the Scottish legal system which is of course separate to the one in England and Wales. Readers in Scotland might care to write to him to express their concerns about the legal abuses that have been created in England. The address to write to is: James Wolffe QC, The Lord Advocate, Judicial Office for Scotland, Parliament House, Edinburgh, EH1 1RQ. In addition you could write to Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister in Scotland, which you can do via this web site: https://firstminister.gov.scot/join/first-minister-postbag/ . Be sure to make your objections plain to both of them!

I have written to both the above, but the more voices they hear the better.

In addition in the last few weeks I have been writing to Police & Crime Commissioners in England & Wales pointing out how their police forces have been abusing the law and perverting justice. These are elected representatives who have responsibility for their local police force. The responses so far have been mixed, but they may pay more attention to local electors so if you support this campaign please contact your local Police Commissioner. A list is present here: http://www.apccs.police.uk/find-your-pcc/2016-police-crime-commissioner-elections/ and it is not difficult to find their address on the internet.

Roger Lawson

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

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

Speeding Offences Hit Record High

Figures published by the Department for Transport (DfT) show that recorded speed limit offences hit a record high in 2016. With 2.1 million offences, they have increased steadily from a level of 1.1 million in 2010. They are now higher than the previous record level set in 2005. This is despite the fact that over 1 million drivers are now taking speed awareness courses every year to avoid prosecution. This surely demonstrates that such “education” courses are having no effect whatsoever on drivers’ behaviour.

The increase in the number of recorded offences is not down to increased speeding but simply because the police now see it as a great source of income and hence are using police “waivers” and speed awareness courses to generate money.

As the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) have repeatedly claimed, such operations by the police have nothing to do with improving road safety but are simply about generating cash. To remind readers, only 5% of personal injury accidents reported by the police have a factor of exceeding the speed limit as a contributory cause. There are other factors that are much more important which automated enforcement can do little about.

More information is present here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/cars/article-5114945/Speeding-offences-hit-new-high-2016.html . And of course on the AMPOW campaign web site here: www.speed-awareness.org

Roger Lawson