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

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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

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Road Policing and Making Money from Speeding

A very interesting report has recently been published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) under the title “Roads Policing: Not Optional”. It has some particularly interesting things to say about the use of speed cameras but is generally critical about the fall in attention to roads policing. Staff and other resources have been reduced over the last few years, with automated enforcement of speeding offences when all the other dangerous driving activities are ignored.

The chart below from the report shows how road fatalities in the UK have plateaued in the last ten years:

The report states bluntly that “Roads policing in some forces is inadequate”. It is clear that many police forces do not consider roads policing a priority. Fatal and serious injury road accidents where illegal speed is a factor (above the speed limit) also frequently feature a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and crime and hence are not amenable to automated enforcement. The ABD has long argued for more police officers to be deployed on our roads. Instead expenditure on roads policing has been cut and ever more emphasis is placed on speed enforcement when that is a factor in relatively few road casualty accidents. See the ABD Press Release below for more information.

The HMICFRS Report is particularly interesting on pages 28 to 30 where it discusses the financial arrangements associated with police speed camera operations. For example it says: “Crucially, what constitutes recovery of costs is

open to interpretation”. That hints, and quite correctly, that police forces are generating profits that are used on anything they choose as the ABD has previously claimed (see www.speed-awareness.org for details of the evidence). The report also suggests that police forces and local safety partnerships should publish on an annual basis the details of revenue and on what that revenue is spent.

The report also notes this: “This apparent unwillingness to support education over enforcement had led to suspicion among officers, including some at chief officer level, that the focus of activity was intended to increase revenue for the safety partnership. In support of this, they gave examples of some camera sites that they believed didn’t have a history of collisions or other identified vulnerabilities”. And “Elsewhere, we were told that the reason enforcement took place at certain locations was that they were ‘good hunting grounds’, rather than because they had a history of collisions”.

The report suggests that guidelines over how and where cameras are located should be refreshed. But the problem will remain that where there is a financial incentive, the abuse will continue as police forces continue to be short of money.

It is just too much of a temptation to concentrate on speed enforcement rather than focus on the road safety issues that might reduce deaths and injuries.

The whole system needs to be reformed to stop the abuses that cause millions of drivers to pay money to the police and the course operators for “education” which has not been shown to have any road safety benefit whatsoever.

The HMICFRS Report is available from here: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/publications/not-optional-an-inspection-of-roads-policing-in-england-and-wales/

ABD Press Release on the HMICFRS Report: https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-greed-cameras-exposed-in-new-police-watchdog-report/

Roger Lawson

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

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Speed Awareness Courses Don’t Work

Yesterday (18/2/2020) the Daily Telegraph published an article by Lucy Denyer which was headlined “Speed awareness courses work, so let’s make them compulsory”. The article told how she attended a speed awareness course after being picked up driving above the speed limit in a 20-mph zone.

She reports that at least she learned that street lights on a road mean that the speed limit is always 30 mph, unless there are signs saying otherwise, which everyone should know of course. But she admits that 5 months later “I know I have forgotten most of what I learnt”. But she then says that we should stop making the courses a punishment, and make them compulsory instead. It is not clear how she expects that to happen. Perhaps as part of all learner driver training?

But the problem is that the speed awareness courses do not work and the only reason for their existence is to enable the police to collect a cut of the fees paid.

I actually had a letter published today in the Daily Telegraph which spelled it out. It said: “Speed awareness courses do not work – accidents are not reduced. This was made clear by a report published by the Department for Transport in 2018 after research by IPSOS-MORI.  The reason why the numbers attending speed awareness courses has gone up is simply that police forces like to make money in this way. They are permitted to take a cut of the fees paid”.

See the evidence here: https://speedawareness.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/no-benefit-from-speed-awareness-courses/  . This web site explains how this perversion of justice using the false justification of road safety to generate money has come about: https://www.speed-awareness.org/

Roger Lawson

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Repeat Offenders from Speed Awareness Courses

We have reported on the ineffectiveness of speed awareness courses in the past. There is no evidence that they cut accidents and that was confirmed in a report published by the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2018 – see below.

Further evidence on their ineffectiveness in influencing behaviour has been reported from a survey by Kwik Fit of 2,000 drivers. They note that as many as 40 per cent of drivers who have been on a speed awareness course are caught breaking the limit again.

Only a quarter of drivers think that going on a speed awareness course is effective, which compares with all the positive claims about their effectiveness from course organisers. The latter clearly have a vested interest in promoting the wonders of such courses as a road safety measure when in reality there is no impact at all. They just provide a slush fund for the police and a nice income for course operators.

See https://tinyurl.com/w8jhg4m for information on the DfT report.

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Huge Increase in Speed Enforcement

Speed Camera 4The magazine Local Transport Today have run a story headlined “Met Police prepares for huge increase in speed enforcement”. They report that London police are planning a huge programme of speed limit enforcement with the aim of catching a million offenders a year. That’s up from 160,000 per annum at present.

That will be achieved by a large increase in speed camera activities including more mobile speed enforcement equipment. This is likely to mean aggressive enforcement of the 20 mph speed limits being brought in on many London roads.

The above information was disclosed at a meeting of London Councils, the representative body for London boroughs. That organisation is also looking at “decriminalisation” of speeding offences, which would effectively make it possible for local boroughs to enforce speed limits in the same way they do for parking offences at present.

What’s the real motivation behind these moves? It’s almost certainly about filling the coffers of the police by the offer of speed awareness courses, and also enabling local councils to fill their budget holes by also taking a cut of fees paid. Both organisations are under financial pressure and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is unwilling to help with the police budgets but would rather spend money on other things.

There is no evidence that lowering speed limits or more aggressive enforcement has any significant impact on road safety statistics. But politicians like gestures and many are only too pleased to kowtow to the anti-car fanatics. When it can be combined with excuses for revenue raising, it’s difficult to stop.

Just make sure you oppose it though.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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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 )

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Police Bid to Obtain More Money from Education Courses

Alison Hernandez, who leads on road safety for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, is advocating that the cost of speeding fines and driver education courses is hiked. This could mean the cost of an average NDORS course might rise to £130. By implication this suggests that she wants the fees received by the police from NDORS courses to rise from £45 to £95 if all the extra money was given to them.

So it’s almost “double your money”. She argues that would enable the police to spend more on road safety, but the analysis by the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) of where all the money went from such courses in 2017 shows that only a trivial proportion (1.3%) is actually spent on road safety. All the rest is consumed in the safety camera industry including paying for more cameras, more staff to operate them, more administration and more trainers.

But do education courses actually reduce casualties? In other words, is there any road safety benefit by sending people on an education course? Not according to the results of a very detailed Government sponsored study published this year on the subject.

Ms Hernandez also wants the money from speeding fines that currently go to the Treasury to be diverted to the police. That was previously changed after the police turned it into a money generating operation – for example by catching motorists where they were easy to catch rather than where there was a dangerous road location. The Government quite rightly put a stop to that and now funds road safety programmes themselves to ensure the money is allocated wisely. But it was the catalyst for the creation of speed camera industry which is still in operation since the police invented diversionary courses using “waivers of prosecution”. The ABD argues this is not just unauthorised, it is simply illegal. See the ABD’s AMPOW campaign against them for more information.

Ms Hernandez is surely just using “road safety” as a poor excuse to raise more money for her police force. She is Police Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall which should be noted by those who elected her.

Roger Lawson

Further information:

Where All the Money from Speed Awareness Courses Went in 2017: https://speedawareness.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/where-all-the-money-from-speed-awareness-courses-went-in-2017/

No Benefit from Speed Awareness Courses: https://speedawareness.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/no-benefit-from-speed-awareness-courses/

AMPOW Campaign (Against Misuse of Police Waivers) Web Site: https://www.speed-awareness.org/

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

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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://www.ndors.org.uk/scheme/trends-statistics/ (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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