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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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 )

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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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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

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Yet More Profiteering by the Police

The Daily Telegraph published an article this morning explaining how the police are going to extract an extra £12 million a year from motorists. This will be enabled by the fee the police get as a kick-back from speed awareness course fees rising from £35 to £45.

That fee is supposed to cover only administration costs, but in reality most police forces were already making substantial profits from these arrangements and using them to finance more cameras and lots of other things (even expensive motorcycles in one case). More evidence on this is present on this web page: http://www.speed-awareness.org/profits.html

In effect the police are using these fees as a slush fund to finance their operations and employ more staff while ignoring the general illegality of these arrangements.

Now there was a Bill going before Parliament before the General Election that included a section that was intended to legalise these arrangements however dubious they are in reality. It was intended to ensure the police could not profit from speed awareness and other course offers. But the replacement Bill, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, has just been published and it contains no replacement sections.

Meanwhile the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Department for Transport continue to turn a blind eye to our complaints about the moral duplicity and illegality of these arrangements (and yes we have taken a QC’s advice on that).

Speed cameras and the offer of speed awareness courses have nothing to do with road safety and are all about making money. A vicious circle of more cameras, that generate more money, that finance more cameras has created the financial incentives that are extracting enormous amounts of money from motorists with no evidence of any road safety benefit.

There are now over 1 million drivers every year being offered speed awareness courses, and with fees of £80 and more which will now increase, that could be £100 million being extracted from motorists without any legal basis. See www.speed-awareness.org for all the evidence.

If you want to stop these nefarious practices, please write to your Member of Parliament. Please do so now and ask them to contact Minister, Nick Hurd, on this subject (make sure you include your name and full postal address even in an email to ensure your M.P. will respond).

How do you write to your M.P.? You can obtain their contact details from this web page: http://parliament.uk  (enter your post code at the bottom left). This will take you to a page giving their name, postal address and email address – an email will do fine.

DO WRITE TO YOUR M.P. NOW SO THAT THIS ISSUE REMAINS IN THEIR MINDS

Also please write similarly to any Member of the House of Lords that you know.

Roger Lawson

Departure from the AA

Yesterday was the start of many people’s holidays. But one company director is going to be taking a longer holiday than he expected.

The Executive Chairman of the AA Plc (AA.) Bob Mackenzie has gone. The announcement from the company said he “has been removed by the board….for gross misconduct, with immediate effect”. According to press reports, this arose from a fracas in a bar, although there is also a suggestion that he may be suffering from a mental illness. Some newspapers just suggested it was a “Jeremy Clarkson moment”.

The AA is an interesting organisation which provides breakdown cover and other services for many motorists. Back in 1905, it was formed to warn drivers about speed traps. It later transmogrified into a commercial organisation when the members sold out. Now it is one of the largest operators of driver education programmes such as speed awareness courses under the AA DriveTech brand. That has become a booming industry and more than a million drivers are now attending speed awareness courses each year. This has resulted in the funding not just of commercial organisations such as the AA but more than £40 million per year goes to the police and local authorities. For the first time in English law, it is now allegedly legal to pay the police to drop prosecutions – all you have to do is promise to attend such a course. There is no evidence that it has any benefit in road safety. More information on this dubious practice is present here: http://www.speed-awareness.org (a campaign run by the ABD against it).

So you can see how in the case of the AA it has changed over the years from promoting the interests of motorists, to actually undermining their interests and extracting money from them. The police are also now ignoring well established legal principles that they should not take money to waive prosecution and are perverting the course of justice. But you can see how financial incentives have been driving the evolution of this dubious new industry.

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