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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by entering your email address in the box below.  You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

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

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

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/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page (see under the About tab) to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

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.

Twitter: @AmpowABD

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

Speed Awareness Courses in Scotland

Scotland does not operate the cash generating system of speed awareness courses that functions in England and Wales. Despite our previous report last August that Police in Scotland had abandoned proposals to implement them, it now seems that they are likely to be introduced.

James Wolfe, the Lord Advocate and head of the legal service in Scotland, is now proposing that they be introduced subject to the consent of a working group and the specific proposals on how they should operate.

It is most unfortunate that the representations the ABD made on this subject have been ignored. As we pointed out to the Lord Advocate in January 2018 there is no evidence that speed awareness courses have any significant impact on road casualties. A Department for Transport (DfT) report on the subject subsequently said exactly that – see https://speedawareness.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/no-benefit-from-speed-awareness-courses/ . Speed awareness courses and the associated “waivers of prosecution” are not just a perversion of justice, but are primarily a way for the police to extract bribes from motorists to fund their operations.

As the Scottish legal system is separate to the UK one, it is possible that this decision could be challenged by a judicial review in Scotland. Otherwise residents of Scotland could write to the Lord Advocate at this address: James Wolffe QC, The Lord Advocate, Judicial Office for Scotland, Parliament House, Edinburgh, EH1 1RQ

Roger Lawson

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

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

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 )

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

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.

RSS Acting As Prosecutors?

Anyone involved in the industry of speed cameras will be aware of the activities of Road Safety Support Ltd (RSS). It provides expert advice, training and other support services to safety camera partnerships, police forces and local councils. For example, where a speed camera prosecution is contested in a court of law, they might provide evidence as expert witnesses. But it now appears that they have actually been taking over the prosecution of such cases. Is this legal?

Emma Patterson of Patterson Law was interviewed on talkRadio yesterday on this subject (4/11/2017 – see here: http://talkradio.co.uk/radio/listen-again/1509800400 – it’s about 5 minutes in). She is an expert on motoring law. She suggests that it has not been legal because RSS do not appear to be a registered law firm.

RSS was set up in 2007 by Meredydd Hughes a former Chief Constable, and former traffic officer Trevor Hall. They are still directors of this company which is a private limited company (limited by guarantee). It is not known who the “Members” of the company are, but their accounts make interesting reading. These are available in “abbreviated form” from Companies House and show net assets of £1.1 million at March 2017. In addition, it shows retained earnings of £1.04 million, up from £790,000 in October 2015; in other words surplus profits of £256,000 in a period of 18 months. This is not a small business.

Meredydd Hughes and Trevor Hall were also involved in the creation of NDORS Ltd who operated the scheme to divert drivers (via Police waivers) to profit generating speed-awareness courses – see http://www.speed-awareness.org/profits.html before that role was taken over by UK ROED Ltd. That’s another private company over which the Government has no control. Although all these companies mentioned above are technically “not for profit” companies who cannot distribute dividends they can of course pay their directors and staff large sums of money, and provide good homes for retired police officers, or even serving officers.

One can see exactly why and how there are doubts about the morality of this whole area when there is such a strong financial motive potentially influencing the people involved. As we have said before about the use of police waivers and speed-awareness courses, the dubious nature and illegality of these arrangements seems to have been ignored in the pursuit of profits, and with no regard to whether they provide any road safety benefit.

Note that RSS is receiving over £400,000 per year from police forces. See http://www.pattersonlaw.co.uk/rss-ltd-and-road-traffic-offence-enforcement/ for more information.

This latest allegation about the role of RSS reinforces the questionable nature of these private companies who operate outside the control of Government.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmpowABD

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

Queen’s Speech – Waivers are Still Illegal

Readers of this blog will be aware that a Bill was going through Parliament before the General Election that aimed to make the offering by the police of waivers in return for attending an “education” course undoubtedly legal (after speeding and other road traffic offences). Or at least it aimed to clarify the law because we have argued it was a perversion of justice and illegal on other grounds, i.e. the whole speed awareness cash cow and the associated industry was a corruption of English law.

That Bill was called the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill but was abandoned when the last Parliament ended. Is a revised or resubmitted version in the Queen’s Speech for the new Parliament – given in the House yesterday? Or has it been crowded out by all the Brexit legislation and other popular measures?

The answer in brief is that it is not clear. There is a new Bill proposed called the “Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill” which certainly covers some of the aforementioned abandoned Bill. Whether the additional “Courses Offered as an Alternative to Prosecution” clauses will be snuck into that Bill again, as it was into the previous Bill, we will have to wait and see. An inquiry to the Department of Transport elicited a response of “we don’t know and neither do we know when the Bill might be published”.

As it may anyway take some time to get through Parliament, readers can assume that it is still a matter that would be vulnerable to a legal challenge in the meantime. But let us hope that condoning bribery of the police to waive prosecution is not added to the Bill so it does not set a dangerous precedent in English law.

In the meantime, if you are offered a speed awareness or other education course, you may care to ask the ABD for a suggested response. For the avoidance of doubt, and to remind you, the ABD opposes such waivers and payments because they are financing the increases in speed cameras and resulting rises in prosecutions. This has nothing to do with road safety and everything to do with profiteering by the police, course operators and others involved in this industry. See www.speed-awareness.org for the evidence.

Roger Lawson

Profits on Speed Awareness Courses in Gloucestershire

Radio channel Heart published some information on the profits made by Gloucestershire County Council in 2016/2017 in an article which has subsequently been removed from their web site.

Gloucestershire were one of the few councils that ran their own speed awareness courses and reportedly made about £400,000 in profits from doing so that year. But Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl was reported as saying that they should not have made a profit in that way, and specifically said “The law is fairly clear, it’s been clarified. I think it was ambiguous at one point but it’s very clear now, you’re only allowed to recover the cost of the course, everything else must be paid for in some other way through taxation. I know they made money on it and I’m not blaming them for that but it isn’t legal anymore, if it ever was, so that’s just the reality and the courses are now £14 cheaper as a result”. The courses are now run by a private company, so presumably they will be making any profits available instead.

Nigel Riglar, from the Council, denied they did anything illegal. But they are now having to fund the Road Safety Partnership directly.

It is also worth noting that the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police, Suzette Davenport, has recently retired. She has been very active in the gravy train of speed awareness courses and is a director of UK ROED Ltd (see http://www.speed-awareness.org/profits.html).

So why was the Heart article removed? Was it too embarrassing an admission from Martin Surl? Or simply that his comments were surely not quite correct. Perhaps he was referring to the new Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill that was passing through Parliament before interrupted by the General Election. That might make it legal when it is not at present. But the Bill has yet to be passed.

Roger Lawson