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.
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