One of the aspects of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (see Reference 1 below) that is currently going through Parliament and which has largely gone unreported is Section 67 which covers education courses as an alternative to prosecution for motoring offences.
We have pointed out previously that the offer of speed awareness courses was likely to be illegal. It’s a perversion of justice to waive prosecution on payment of a sum of money, and there is no evidence that attending such a course has any impact on road safety. See Reference 2 below for a web site that gives a full explanation.
The new Bill does at least bring the use of such courses into law and allows the Secretary of State to regulate them. However it permits the police to set a fee that is higher than the cost of providing the course. Any such excess must be used for the purpose of promoting road safety, but that does include the provision of more speed cameras and police to operate them. So the gravy train of the industry of speed enforcement will continue, if not expand even further.
In conclusion, this will remain a dubious practice, with money driving the schemes not road safety.
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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.