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

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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

Evidence of Course Profits from LTT

Local Transport Today, the magazine read by local authority traffic engineers, have published an interesting article on the activities of Hertfordshire County Council in their provision of Speed Awareness Courses.

The article notes that there are 24 accredited course operators. That includes three private sector organisations, six police forces and 15 local authorities. All of them can generate very substantial profits above the costs incurred in providing the courses. For example, LTT report that Hertfordshire County Council generated a surplus of £947,000 in 2015/2016 by delivering 1,891 courses attended by 41,641 drivers giving income of £3.7 million (source: Local Transport Today). Hertfordshire are apparently looking to expand their “business activities” in this area according to Chief Executive John Wood. One can see why when it is such a money spinner.

The police and local authorities may well spend some the surplus from running courses on road safety measures (there is no legal obligation to do so) but private sector operators can simply lose the profits in high salaries and directors fees. For example in October 2015 the Sun Newspaper ran an article that suggested the directors of AA Drivetech received £5.5 million in directors fees in 2013.

One disturbing aspect is that although the police do not set speed limits or determine the location of speed cameras, they do advise on those matters. But local authorities do directly control speed limits so they may well have a financial incentive to lower limits and introduce more cameras so as to increase the demand for speed awareness courses and the hence the profits they receive.

Roger Lawson

Millions of Pounds in Speed Camera Fines in the East Riding Alone

Safer Roads Humber, a “safety camera partnership” which covers the East Riding of Yorkshire, recently published their annual report for 2015. It shows just how lucrative the operation of speed cameras and the diversion of drivers to speed awareness courses by the waiver of prosecutions really is.

There were 30,024 drivers detected as speeding last year in the region. Some 22,460 were offered a speed awareness course (cost £95, instead of them paying a £100 fine and collecting three points). The courses generated £2.1m which went to Safer Roads Humber.

In addition, 12,609 drivers accepted a fixed penalty notice generating £1.2m which went to the Treasury (HM Government). Another 3,126 cases went to court but the fines imposed there were not recorded (information reported by the Hull Daily Mail).

This shows just how lucrative the operation of speed cameras can be in a relatively small part of the country (population only about 350,000 with Hull the only largish city). The money generated will no doubt be used to finance the operation of the existing cameras and probably buy more. These statistics show exactly what happens when police activities are driven by money and not much else.

Roger Lawson

Comments by NDORS on AMPOW Campaign

 

Road Safety GB have published an article on our campaign which you can read here: http://www.roadsafetygb.org.uk/news/5199.html . It quotes an NDORS spokesman (who it seems prefers to remain anonymous) who grossly misleads readers about the legality of the current arrangements, plus makes some other false claims. This was the comment I posted in response:

NDORS claim “that the provision of ….educational courses has been deemed lawful”. But all they have done is obtained a QC’s opinion. That does not make it lawful, and we have also taken a QC’s opinion and ours gave a contrary opinion. (Note: QC’s opinions are not law and their views may be swayed by the questions their clients pose and the answers they are looking for. Nobody argues that the police can waive prosecutions where appropriate but turning it into a money making opportunity is another matter altogether).

NDORS also repeat the false allegation that all the police recover is their administration costs which is definitely wrong. They generate a surplus which finances more cameras, more staff to operate them, etc, etc. It’s a money making scheme in essence.

Our manifesto advocates the offer of training course as an alternative to other penalties after conviction, not for the police to tout waivers to collect money. Nowhere do we support that the police should profit from waiving prosecution.

Roger Lawson