Wednesday 5 January 2011

Money before safety

The myth that speeding fines are all about increasing road safety was finally quashed yesterday with the conviction of Michael Thompson whose ‘crime’ was to alert other drivers of a police radar speed trap.

Mr Thompson was charged with wilfully obstructing a police officer in the course of her duties. Is it really the duty of the police to catch and fine motorists? Whatever happened to the old axiom that prevention is better than cure?

As lawyer David Green writes in his excellent report in the New Statesman, Michael Thompson now has a criminal conviction because he encouraged others to stay within the law.

It is time for the Government to stop using the Police Force as uniformed tax collectors and instead let them get on with their job of catching crooks and villains.


DarkKnight said...

It cannot possibly be right that someone encouraging drivers not to break the speed limit is convicted of 'obstructing a police officer'. The only possible explanation is that the Police now see their job as collecting fines, not preventing crimes.

Will it now be against the law to tell someone to 'drive safely'?

Most SatNavs have a feature warning motorists where the speed cameras are. Is it now an offence to own a TomTom?

What about road signs that warn you there are speed cameras ahead? This decision merely confirms the Law is an ass.

Mrs Angry said...

If, like me, on two different occasions, you have had the unfortunate experience of seeing at first hand the fatal consequences of speeding drivers who think it is acceptable to ignore the law and drive above the limit, you would not waste time on feeling sympathy for those who think it is some sort of good deed to warn others they might be caught behaving in this way.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Mrs Angry

If the object of the Police exercise was to prevent people from speeding, then they should have welcomed this public spirited intervention. What has really pissed them off is that they have been denied the revenue the speeding tickets would have brought in. You are being somewhat naiive if you think the police had any other motive.

Mrs Angry said...

I can assure you, from my certain knowledge of what happens in my area,(me being a pillar of the community and member of my SNT residents' panel) that locally anyway, police monitoring of speed is done purely for safety reasons, and a bloody good thing too. As for speed cameras: if they prevent accidents I don't really care if the real reason is for revenue.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

So why are you so upset at the sympathy shown for Mr Thompson? It was your beloved Labour government which decided to paint the Gatso boxes bright yellow so that motorists would see them and slow down. They said the purpose of the exercise was to reduce traffic speed, not increase fine revenue. This situation is no different. A private citizen took simple but effective action to slow down speeding motorists.

If that was also the genuine objective of the Police exercise, Mr Thompson should have been praised not prosecuted. You are surely not advocating that people be allowed to speed so that they can be fined, rather than stopping them from speeding in the first instance?

Moaneybat said...


Excellent piece by Mr Green and some very good counter analysis. Sometimes it pays to have legal representation rather than elect to represent self no matter how ridiculous the offence. The report does not state whether Mr Thompson had a solicitor or not.

It was the right decision.

Mrs Angry said...

Er, DCMD, it was not my 'beloved' Labour government. My feelings towards them did not extend to such deep affection, I am afraid, although in comparison to the present bunch of tossers,the previous government is becoming more and more fondly thought of, I would have said.
My point is not that people should be allowed to speed so that they can get caught, but that this idea that traffic cameras and speed traps are somehow innately unfair is wrong, and just whinging from a load of Jeremy Clarkson bores. Speeding kills, especially in residential areas, and we have to stop motorists from thinking it is somehow acceptable to do so, and that anyone who tries to stop them is some sort of spoilsport or just trying to make money.

Anonymous said...

What a load of old twaddle from the usual parade of the swivel eyed left. Knives kill - so shall we ban them? Most murders take place in the home - so shall we ban homes? A few people a year die putting their trousers on in the morning - shall we ban trousers?

Focussing exclusively on one, minor (according to government statistics), factor in road incidents is not only unfair but really dangerous. John Major's government who started the move away from using highways police officers (costly) to machines (cheap and profitable) ended the long decline in safety on Britain's roads.

The absence of highways police exclusively charged with patrolling roads has seen those driving without insurance, those driving drunk, those driving stolen cars, those driving underage, those driving with a bar or without a licence go scot free. All these people, real criminals and dangerous people on our roads have no fear of being caught.

Nor do people who unknowingly are driving carelessly get the benefit of education from experienced highway police who can give people, maybe driving a bit too fast for the circumstances, a stern word.

Instead people with reputations to defend, those who do and can pay fines, people who's cars are registered where they live and actually belong to them, those with insurance and licences are pursued with the full force of the law for minor infractions. It is entirely possible whilst driving through unfamiliar places, to go through a few cash cow speed cameras going 'slightly' over an arbitrary speed limit (often not based on much evidence or science) to accrue a ban in an hour.

So, this 'fair system' brings danger and death to our roads and you swivel eyed lefties cheer on the humps, bumps and cameras.

What warm hearted people you are.

Anonymous said...

"...ended the long decline in safety on Britain's roads."

of course should have said

"...started the long decline in safety on Britain's roads."

Reverend Badger said...

"Knives kill - so shall we ban them?"

It's irresponsible use of knives that kills which is why it's illegal to carry knives over a certain size. The same as why guns are strictly controlled and it's illegal to own certain types of firearm for which there is no other practical use than to harm people.

Extrapolating from that, it's not cars that kill but irresponsible use of them, which is why we have laws dictating how they can be used, such as speed limits. From what I heard on the radio it seems that the reason the police actually pressed charges was because he had the nerve to talk back to them, but even so I'm generally with the police on this one - by warning oncoming motorists he wasn't preventing speeding, he was enabling the motorists to get away with speeding.

The irony is that Mr Hope here complains about the lack of highway police, but then appears to support the actions of someone enabling motorists to circumvent them and thus not gain the benefit of the wisdom he suggests that they would impart.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Reverend Badger

You may be interested in the following legal report of a similar case which appeared in the Daily Telegraph motoring section, August 5, 2006.

“Lorry driver Charles Glendinning was taken all the way to the House of Lords by the Director of Public Prosecutions after he successfully appealed against a court decision. Taunton magistrates initially convicted him of wilfully obstructing the police when he waved at other drivers to warn of a speed trap on the A303.

Three law lords, headed by a former Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, have again ruled in Glendinning’s favour by refusing the DPP permission to appeal. When the High Court considered the case in February, Mr Justice Owen said there was no evidence that any of the motorists warned by Glendinning had been breaking the speed limit or were about to do so. He added that some people might think the police ought to appreciate the efforts of others to prevent speeding.”

Mrs Angry said...

Rev Badger: thanks for trying to talk some sense into these old dunderheads, but I think we are wasting our breath. Oh,and by the way, I see teacher has failed to correct your appalling grammar: 'people who's cars'? Tut tut, Mr Hope.
I have twice watched someone die in front of me as a result of another driver's 'minor infraction' of the law, and therefore I am not inclined to feel sympathy for the potential well deserved damage to the reputation of those who think it is acceptable to break the law by speeding. It is not 'swivel eye lefties', my dear man, who bring death and injury to the road, but idiotic, selfish and despicable drivers who care more about getting somewhere fast than the safety of others. Yes, I am a warm hearted person, which is why I am feeling rather distraught today to hear of the death of a 34 year old friend as a result of complications from a road accident, so excuse me if I express myself in less than temperate tones.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

It is rather typical and predictable of the left to twist the facts to suit their needs. This is not, and never has been, an article about the danger of speeding. It is an article highlighting the absurdity of prosecuting someone for committing the heinous crime of trying to prevent other motorists from speeding. A conviction which cannot possibly be allowed to stand in the light of previous similar rulings. But how the left do so like to criminalise people who do things they don’t approve of.

Reverend Badger said...

Thank you DCMD, that is interesting. It was mentioned on the radio that there had been a previous case that had been overturned on appeal, but they did not mention the statement by Justice Owen that "there was no evidence that any of the motorists warned by Glendinning had been breaking the speed limit or were about to do so".

Overturned due to lack of evidence, eh? If the media coverage of this case is anything to go by, it sounds like this guy has already confessed as to his intentions so I doubt his case will go the same way.

An actual prosecution does seem rather like overkill, and according to the news he would have just got a verbal warning if he hadn't tried to argue with the officer, but it is good that this has been brought to national attention because speeding needs to stop being considered a socially acceptable crime.

Reverend Badger said...

"It is an article highlighting the absurdity of prosecuting someone for committing the heinous crime of trying to prevent other motorists from speeding."

That depends on whether he always warned motorists who were speeding, or just those who were in immediate danger of being caught doing so. If it's the latter then it doesn't seem quite as noble an act.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Rev Badger

Even if the other drivers were speeding (and there is no way any of us, including Mr Thompson, could possibly know), the fact that he was able to make them slow down is the mark of a responsible citizen. Mrs Angry seemingly has mind reading powers that have established beyond doubt that Thompson’s motive was only to save other motorists from a fine.

A man should not be criminalised for warning other people not to break the law, whatever his motives.

Moaneybat said...

"Three law lords, headed by a former Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, have again ruled in Glendinning’s favour by refusing the DPP permission to appeal. When the High Court considered the case in February, Mr Justice Owen said there was no evidence that any of the motorists warned by Glendinning had been breaking the speed limit or were about to do so."

Did anybody 'assist' the Magistrates Court by informing them of the 'Glendenning' decision? Not according to the Daily Telegraph report. If DCMD can find the above ruling then so so too, could the Magistrates Clerk.

However,it pays to have legal representation rather than elect to represent one-self in certain matters

Reverend Badger said...

I understand what you are saying DCMD, but I feel you are being overly generous/literal in how you describe it. Of course it's possible that Mr Thompson was simply warning other motorists that they were speeding, irregardless of the presence of the speed trap, but do you really believe that to be true? It seems unlikely that that was the case. And the coverage I heard on the radio certainly assumed that he was warning the oncoming motorists of the presence of the police.

Now maybe I'm cynical, but I doubt that any motorist seeing Mr Thompson's warning would have actually thought "I now see the error of my ways, and will henceforth drive responsibly". I suspect that they thought "Ha! I beat the system" and then continued to speed whenever they thought they could get away with it.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Moaneybat, you are right to warn about the dangers of self representation and it seems there are other similar cases now coming to light. No doubt more Court time will be wasted hearing a case that should never have been brought.

Magistrates do not have the same legal background as Judges and rely instead on their Clerks, but it is the defendant’s responsibility to investigate legal precedents. Had he done so, then perhaps the CPS would have backed down. They probably saw him as an easy target to meet their monthly quota for convictions.

Reverend Badger

Even if you are right and his motivation was simply to save speeding motorists from a fine and three points, what exactly is the problem? Are you really saying that we should turn away from an opportunity to prevent an offence from taking place when it is within our powers to do so?

If we saw an elderly person walking down the street in winter, should we warn them of an icy patch ahead or just wait for them to fall and then call an ambulance?

Who is to say that Mr Thompson did not prevent a serious accident which might have been caused if a speeding motorist had braked suddenly on seeing the speed trap?

Reverend Badger said...

Funnily enough I was thinking earlier of using a similar analogy, but my version would have been 'if you see someone in the street committing a petty criminal act, would you warn them of an approaching policeman so that they could conceal their crime?'

I feel that my version is a rather more accurate reflection of what Mr Thompson did, and I would argue that by warning the other motorists he was endorsing speeding. I also think that it's interesting that you would compare getting caught by the police committing an offense with having an accident.

As for suggesting that he could have prevented an accident, you could just as easily argue that he increased the risk of an accident by distracting the driver.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Rev Badger

Your analogy is not comparable. Witnessing someone committing a crime is not the same as preventing the crime from taking place.

Reverend Badger said...

The fact that he felt the need to warn the oncoming motorists indicates that he believed that they were speeding. And warning someone to hide their crime in order to evade detection is not the same as preventing it from happening. I feel that my point still stands.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

As to Mr Thompson's intentions, I think we should agree to disagree!