Speeding Offences Hit Record High

Figures published by the Department for Transport (DfT) show that recorded speed limit offences hit a record high in 2016. With 2.1 million offences, they have increased steadily from a level of 1.1 million in 2010. They are now higher than the previous record level set in 2005. This is despite the fact that over 1 million drivers are now taking speed awareness courses every year to avoid prosecution. This surely demonstrates that such “education” courses are having no effect whatsoever on drivers’ behaviour.

The increase in the number of recorded offences is not down to increased speeding but simply because the police now see it as a great source of income and hence are using police “waivers” and speed awareness courses to generate money.

As the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) have repeatedly claimed, such operations by the police have nothing to do with improving road safety but are simply about generating cash. To remind readers, only 5% of personal injury accidents reported by the police have a factor of exceeding the speed limit as a contributory cause. There are other factors that are much more important which automated enforcement can do little about.

More information is present here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/cars/article-5114945/Speeding-offences-hit-new-high-2016.html . And of course on the AMPOW campaign web site here: www.speed-awareness.org

Roger Lawson

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Letters from Supporters

Following our note to supporters of the AMPOW campaign asking them to write to Brandon Lewis, M.P., Minister of State for Policing, we received copies of a number of such letters. Thanks to all those who have written to Mr Lewis. Here are a few extracts that are particularly pertinent:

  1. From Ian Belchamber:

“Whatever anyone’s views on the rights or wrongs of “speeding” – which can include, these days, driving at a snail’s pace at 36 on a dual carriageway with safety barriers, no houses, and pedestrian / cycle areas separated from the road, two wrongs do not make a right and it is unacceptable for the police to behave dishonestly, and to exploit their powers for personal gain, break the law or their codes of conduct, etc., in enforcing the law.

Many partnerships were closed and jobs lost when partnership funding reduced a few years ago. Partnership managers had a choice – find a way to bring more money into the partnership, or potentially face the dole queue. This appalling and blatant conflict of interest would test those of the highest integrity and has led to the situation I first discovered in Dorset, a force I have been studying for more than 15 years. The DfT’s attempt to prevent the police getting their hands on the money was quickly overcome by the police using the law as a threat, then taking money instead and “overlooking” the offence.

Dorset is by far the worst – it has the highest course fee and the only force not to take part in NDORS meaning it keeps ALL the course money locally – a profit that I have had to estimate at 700% as transparency and accountability is refused.

When I asked the simplest of FOI questions, “could you please tell me the cost of course provision and what makes this up”, Dorset Police managed to turn this into a 2 year farce at no doubt some huge cost, which eventually managed to avoid providing proper answers – I have to assume, because the obscene profit

What you see here is a disease destroying the police, that has seeded from something that should never have been allowed to start – police personally gaining from “crime”. Think about it – that’s going to make them not want to stop the “crime” , but to keep it sustainable so they can continue to feed from it. Being able to use their “discretion” to fail to prosecute if payments are made directly to them, where that money provided jobs, empires, overtime, power. Of course it was all going to go wrong.

Consider also that as we have seen widespread speed limit reductions and this unprecedented level of driver “training” by the police over the last few years, we have seen a halt and reversal of long term casualty reduction. It doesn’t work. I even predicted this many years ago, it’s really simple, if the police put all their effort into taking money from the normal safe drivers who aren’t going to crash, road safety is going to suffer.

 ‘Attendance on the course is entirely voluntary’ – of course it isn’t! It is only a ‘choice’ as to have one finger cut off or two is a ‘choice’!

Yes, we need speed management on the roads of course, and there may even be a place for education instead of punishment for some driving problems as long as it is honest, transparent, and the conflicts of interest are properly declared and managed, but what we currently have is a grimy, dangerous, corrupt, money making scam and anyone who can’t see that just isn’t looking and they probably know it.

So the police offering not to prosecute in return for money is BAD, very bad indeed, not just for road safety, but for policing, and as I have discovered, wider authorities.”

Note that Ian maintains a web site at http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk where a lot more information is given as he has been campaigning on this matter for some years.

  1. From Malcolm Heymer:

“Your letter does not address the fundamental issue of whether it is legal for the police to waive prosecution in return for these payments. It is not disputed that the police have discretion to waive prosecution in favour of an alternative course of action such as a warning, but to do so in return for a payment is surely a perversion of justice.  If a driver attempted to bribe a police officer directly it would be a serious offence, but the police are effectively soliciting bribes, although many drivers are not aware that the police have a financial interest in offering them attendance at a course.

The origins of this unsatisfactory situation date back to the turn of the century, when the former Labour government rolled out nationally the cost-recovery system for ‘safety’ camera partnerships to fund their activities from the proceeds of their enforcement. This led to an explosion in the number of speeding fines issued and the size of the speed enforcement industry.  The government eventually realised the unintended consequences of the cost-recovery scheme and curtailed it, and the subsequent Coalition government further reduced the funding available for camera enforcement.  However, a great number of jobs within the camera partnerships and their equipment suppliers were by then dependent on payments made by speeding motorists.  The speed awareness course industry grew out of the need to replace that funding stream.

If you doubt the financial motives behind awareness courses, you may remember a couple of years ago that one of the major insurance companies announced it would increase the premiums for drivers who had been on a course in the same way as for those who had paid a fixed penalty. This caused panic within the speed enforcement industry, as one of the main reasons for drivers accepting the offer of a course was to avoid an increase in insurance costs.  If they were to be penalised in the same way as if they had been prosecuted, the incentive to take a course would be removed.

Police forces and organisations such as the Automobile Association (whose subsidiary Drive Tech is a major provider of awareness courses) vigorously attacked the insurance company’s decision, and sought to reassure drivers that other insurers would not follow suit. They did not mention, of course, their own financial interest in the matter.

Some police forces have raised the threshold up to which drivers are offered a course instead of a fixed penalty, and some have reduced the minimum period between repeat offenders being offered a second course. The purpose of these changes is to divert more drivers onto courses and raise more revenue to keep the camera partnerships in business.

I am not opposed to driver improvement courses per se. Indeed, I am a firm believer that education is much more effective than punishment.  But the cynical and, I believe, illegal abuse of speed awareness courses to maintain the growing speed enforcement industry is unacceptable.  I hope you will agree and will take a more robust position concerning the misuse of course fees.”

If you have not already written to Mr Lewis with your own comments on this issue, please do so now. Write to The Rt.Hon. Brandon Lewis, M.P., Minister of State for Policing, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF – it is preferable to do this by post as emails that mention “speed awareness” are blocked as spam by many ISPs.

So get writing now!

Roger Lawson

Police Waivers and Education Courses for Cyclists

It’s not just motorists who are being offered education courses as an alternative to a fine for breaking the law. Cyclists in the City of London have been targeted for riding without lights under a campaign named “Operation Atrium”. When they are issued a fixed penalty notice they can have it waived by attending an education course. In addition they get given some free lights.

In October (when the clocks change and cycles tend to be riding home without lights), there were 176 cyclists issued FPNs and 58 attended a course.

It has become clear that the police now consider the use of waivers on an industrial scale for motoring offences so successful, and bearing in mind there have been no legal challenges over the practice, that they are extending it to all sorts of other crimes as well.

Roger Lawson

AMPOW Campaign Update

A presentation on the AMPOW campaign against the misuse of police waivers was given at the Alliance of British Drivers Annual General Meeting on the 15th October. A copy of the slides used is present here:

http://www.speed-awareness.org/AMPOW-Presentation.pdf

The presentation summarises the objects of the campaign, gives the supporting evidence and shows what activities are being pursued.

Note that if any reader would like the speaker to give the presentation to other interested groups, please use the AMPOW Contact Page to contact me – see http://www.speed-awareness.org/contactus.html

Roger Lawson

Driver Alertness Course Example

Another report of an attendance at an “education” course following a police waiver offer appeared in the Financial Times Magazine last Saturday (6/8/2016). In this case it was for a “Driver Alertness Course” following an alleged failure to stop or report an accident.

The report was from FT columnist Lucy Kellaway who had scraped another car when parking in a Sainsbury’s car park. She had not realised any damage was done so drove off (it was only a minor paint scrape in fact). The police threatened her with prosecution for failing to stop (maximum penalty – 6 months in prison).

She accepted the offer to attend the course in return for a waiver of prosecution. But she did not seem too impressed by the day’s training.

She asked the trainer “if the course made people less prone to prang, but he seemed not to know”. Perhaps not surprising as there is none. She reported at the end of the article that she was trying to drive more carefully, “but I doubt it will last long”.

Comment: This was surely not a matter that the police would have concerned themselves with except they have learned they can now make money for themselves out of such incidents by threatening prosecution. A civil law matter it might have been but the invoking of criminal law was inappropriate. It’s yet another example of how the police are being corrupted, and justice perverted, by the use of waivers of prosecution.

Roger Lawson

What Are Speed Awareness Courses Really Like?

Are Speed Awareness Courses useful? Do they really improve road safety and are they run competently by experienced trainers? Well if you have never been on one you might care to read a report by one of the supporters of the AMPOW campaign that was first published in the ABD’s OTR newsletter. It is present here: http://www.speed-awareness.org/Indoctrination-or-Education.pdf .

There certainly seems to be very mixed feedback from people who have attended such courses. Whether that is because the quality varies, or those who attend simply do so to avoid points on their licence and hence consider them irrelevant (one might say “pointless” in more than one way) it is difficult to determine.

Some people may be attending (and accepting the police “waiver” of prosecution) because they think that by doing so they will not need to report it to their insurers and pay a higher premium. But that is not necessarily so. You do need to report it to your insurers although some may not consider it relevant. But it is for them to make a decision on the matter and different insurers seem to treat it differently.

But there is one common theme running through this and other reports I have seen which is that the staff running these courses typically don’t like to answer questions. Indeed they may not know the answers to simple questions that attendees might ask. It is certainly more indoctrination than education.

Note: if you think that taking one of these courses can save points on your licence, bear in mind that the more people who pay money in return for a police waiver, the more speed cameras there will be on our roads. Do not collude with this police corruption would be my suggestion.

Thanks to Rob Stirling for the article. If anyone else has any reports on these courses that they have attended, please let me have them. Go here to let us know if you have: http://www.speed-awareness.org/contactus.html

Roger Lawson