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.
Today the Mail on Sunday have published a good article on the issue of mobile phone use while driving, and the diversion of drivers to education courses under the headline “Fury as police say: send drivers using phones on course”.
It highlights the new increased penalties for using a hand-held phone while driving from March – a doubling of the fine and penalty points. The Government has written to Chief Constables asking them to stop offering education courses to such drivers but the reaction of Suzette Davenport, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police, was to rebuff this advice. She said that “chief constables will make the decision on how they enforce it….”. This is what I am quoted as saying in the Mail article: “I am astonished the police are ignoring the Government on this. They seem to think they are a law unto themselves”. Indeed the whole scheme of “waiver of prosecution” in return for payment to attend courses was invented by policemen without any legal structure being put in place and without the approval of the Government in any way. It is exceedingly doubtful whether it is supported by law.
Ms Davenport is of course involved in the gravy train of making money from drivers by the waiver of prosecutions as she chairs the Road Safety Trust through whom the funds are channelled and is also a director of UK ROED Ltd who operate the NDORS scheme.
For the avoidance of doubt, let me make it clear that the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has supported stronger penalties for mobile phone use. Having said that there are circumstances when the police might use their long-established common law right to waive prosecution – for example when the vehicle is stationery in a traffic jam or there is genuine emergency. But the drivers should not be asked to pay a bribe in the form of an education course fee in that case.
The Mail article is present here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4168076/Fury-police-say-send-drivers-using-phones-courses.html