Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Of law and enforcement

Next week I am supposed to be in Court again – this time in Cumbria, to answer a charge of failing to supply driver details on who was driving my car when it was clocked at 85 mph in a 70 mph zone.

When I first got the forms, I simply put them in an envelope and returned them to the court, untouched. They were returned a few weeks later by a policeman based in Leeds – who actually made two visits in order to give me the documents back. I returned them again, once more untouched, only to have a summons served on me personally yesterday, by yet another policemen.

That means I have had three police visits to my house to chase up an offence which normally attracts a £60 fine – plus three points on my license. This, in itself, shows where police priorities lie. Get burgled and you get one visit – if you are "lucky" - some days later. Fail to respond to a £60 fine and you get three visits – so far. I suspect there will be more. You can see which the police considers more important.

Nevertheless, some people ask me why I do not just plead guilty, pay the fine - it's only £60 after all - and get it over with. And they have a point. After all, I am guilty: I was driving at 85 mph on a motorway when the posted speed limit was 70 mph.

But, although well-meaning, these people miss the point. This is not about law, it is about enforcement. I have been driving for over thirty years – the last 28 of those without an accident. The only accident I've ever had – that I caused – happened at about 10 mph in a town centre, when I clipped a parked car. No one was injured.

During that career, I've always driven fast on motorways – and slow on populated streets. It used to be that if you got caught speeding, the policeman would talk to you and make a decision as to whether to book you. A stern but friendly word was often the result – and you did take notice. I was nicked occasionally - but not often - and paid up.

These days, I'm stopped much more frequently and, the last few times, the cops have climbed out of their cars with the tickets already half-completed. There is no question of a friendly warning – it's robocop ticket dispenser. And their attitude is often truculent and unpleasant. Sure, I've committed an offence but I’m old enough to have sired some of the chaps who have stopped me. Courtesy never hurt anyone.

The point, though, is that in old-fashioned law enforcement, the cop made a decision. Now the decision is automatic, made as a policy directive by some bureaucrat in or out of uniform. None of the circumstances are taken into account.

But the Cumbria episode was even worse. This was a mobile camera, so you don’t even get to speak to the person who nicked you. The first thing you know is when the fine demand arrives in the post. No self respecting police officer would nick a motorist for 85 mph on a clear motorway in broad daylight. But a camera operator will. This is not about road safety – it's about making money.

So – stuff it. I'm not paying. I've had it up to here with them. And I'm not wasting a day driving up to Cumbria to a rubber stamp so they can charge me money. They can come and get me.


At 5:38 pm, Blogger mexico said...

slight change of subject but when handed a ticket to produce my documents at odsal police station was gobsmacked to see a sign in the window closed till further notice and this was in office hours and not at the weekend
tryed to produce a further 3 times but ended up at idle police station
no offence was commited just stopped on halifax rd
(are they on commision for tickets given out)
but when we phoned up last year regarding vandalism
3-4 days

At 3:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You got three visits for being obstinate and law breaking and continually refusing to do the right thing. If someones house is burgled, it does not take three visits to gather evidence and write a report (this is ALL that is done at burglary scenes). If a burglar is arrested it only takes one visit to his house too.

In your case, it shouldnt have taken ANY visits. Your own disgusting attitude has ensured it has taken three. Congratulations on wasting all that time.


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