Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill Update

The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill is going to make police waivers and “education” courses legal for the first time. The Bill is currently passing through Parliament and is now in the Commons Committee stage. It is being heard by the Public Bills Committee – see http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/vehicletechnologyandaviation.html for more information and where you can see the progress of the Bill.

Although the ABD has called for proper legal regulation of this system, the proposals in the Bill actually make matters worse. There is a provision that any excess over costs must be used for promoting road safety but there is also a provision that “promoting road safety” includes the prevention, detection or enforcement of offences relating to vehicles. So this fixes into law the ability of the police to finance more cameras and their operation so as to generate more cash, and so this dubious industry will be expanded as a result. This has nothing to do with road safety and everything to do with empire building by the police.

The discussions in Committee so far have been on other parts of the Bill. Unfortunately the key part of the Bill so far as we are concerned are a relatively minor part of this Bill. In effect this positively dangerous new legislation has been snuck into a Bill on other major topics and hence is not getting much attention. Perhaps that was deliberate and introducing it when there are other important politic issues going through Parliament is also prejudicial.

These are the Members of the Committee discussing the Bill: James Gray and Joan Ryan (joint Chairs), Steve Baker, Alan Brown, Richard Burden, Jackie Doyle-Price, Vicky Foxcroft, Richard Fuller, John Hayes, Drew Hendry, Sir Greg Knight, Kit Malthouse, Rob Marris, Christian Matheson, Andy McDonald, Victoria Prentis, Andrew Selous, Gareth Snell, Iain Stewart, Tom Tugendhat.

If you personally know any of these Members of Parliament, or they are your M.P., then please let me know. Likewise if you personally know any Member of the House of Lords who may take an interest in this matter, let me know. Phone 020-8295-0378.

If you have not already written to your Member of Parliament, please do so now. You should write via post or email opposing this Bill and ask for amendments to be made to it. (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 – THIS IS URGENT

A Meeting with Brandon Lewis, Minister of State for Policing

One contact we have had recently was with Brandon Lewis as part of trying to obtain awareness of the issues surrounding the Bill. Here’s a brief report on the meeting:

On the 17th March, Dr Geoff Luxford and I met Brandon Lewis M.P. (Geoff is one of his constituents). Brandon Lewis is Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service at the Home Office and my M.P. had corresponded with him previously on the issue of police waivers and “education” courses – to no effect. Geoff has previously been involved in complaints about speed cameras.

Geoff opened the meeting by making some of the key points regarding the new Vehicle Technology & Aviation Bill (the section on the use of education courses):

– Lack of public consultation re the proposals.

– No evidence that the courses provide any benefit (I later said the Government is pre-empting a report they have commissioned on that).

– The fact that the Bill will make payments to the police to waive prosecution legal.

Mr Lewis responded in essence that nobody has to accept the offers of a course – they can take the punishment for the crime if they wish. He suggested it was similar to a “plea bargain”, i.e. you can take a lesser punishment by admitting the crime, and also suggested that it was similar to payments under the Proceeds of Crime Act. [Comments: I have looked into these claims subsequently. Plea bargains do appear to be available in the UK in some circumstances – for example where there is doubt about the evidence or the proof may be difficult to obtain. But a speeding offence is not like those in that the evidence should be clear and indisputable. Plea bargains are not generally available. As regards the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Police can receive part of the award. This is a relatively new legal arrangement and likewise may create dubious incentives in terms of police operations].

But I and Geoff did make the points that it was leading to a focus on money raising and was in essence corruption. I said I considered it was illegal and was intending to challenge it with a judicial review. Profits were being generated by the police and being used for purposes other than road safety.

Mr Lewis made it clear he did not support our stance, but he did say he would represent his constituent’s views to the Department for Transport who are apparently behind the Bill and the relevant section.

It was of course a relatively brief meeting and the result was not particularly unexpected, but I think we got some awareness across of the issues. However Mr Lewis seemed unwilling to seriously consider the legal issues or any of the other issues we raised.

Incidentally at one point I asked Mr Lewis if he had attended a speed awareness course and he said yes – he had participated in one. Presumably another example of someone keen to avoid having a criminal record or having points on his license.

Roger Lawson

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A Letter From a Government Minister

Brandon Lewis, M.P., is the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service.

In response to a letter I wrote to my local M.P. on the subject of speed awareness courses, Brandon Lewis sent a reply which is given here: http://www.speed-awareness.org/Brandon-Lewis-Letter-2016-12-15.pdf

If you read it you can see where the Government is both misinformed on this subject and is turning a blind eye to the abuses perpetrated by the police. Specifically:

  1. It ignores the evidence that the ABD has collected on this matter.
  2. The letter seems unfortunately to contain a typical example of the “ends justifies the means” kind of argument on the basis that it might improve road safety. Apart from the dubious nature of that approach, there is no evidence that getting people to attend a speed awareness course has any impact on road casualty figures whatsoever.
  3. It also states that “road traffic law is an operational matter for the discretion of the police” which is an argument we have heard before from those benefiting from this legal abuse. Nobody disputes that the police have discretion to ignore minor offences – this is a long established legal principle. But they do not have the authority to accept payment in return for ignoring offences (undoubtedly a criminal act – namely perversion of justice) nor the right to establish a whole new justice system without authority from Parliament.
  4. The ABD has supplied clear evidence that the police are using this abuse of their power to raise revenue which is applied to whatever they desire. Effectively drivers are being blackmailed into paying up with the threat of prosecution. It is simply unprincipled. To suggest that this helps to relieve the pressure on the Courts and Justice System is neither here nor there. Such arrangements as now established do of course motivate the police to increase the number of “offenders” who are caught in this web of deceit.
  5. All we are asking for is a proper consideration of this matter, in terms of well established legal principles, some evidence that it has any benefit whatsoever, and that there are regulations established to control these arrangements (including provisions to ensure that the police cannot profit by this distortion of road safety policy and cannot use funds so obtained to finance more speed cameras and their associated operations).

We suggest supporters of this campaign write to Mr Lewis with your own comments on this issue!

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.

Roger Lawson