Tag Archive | "law"

Swift Justice For Motoring Offenders

The announcement has been made today that dedicated traffic courts are to be set up to mete out swift punishment for minor traffic offences. It seems that the half million or so offences that occur each year are clogging up our courts. The government thinks that by setting up these summary centres of justice it will free up the magistrates for more important issues.

Apparently this has been trialled at nine areas around England and is about to be rolled out across both England and Wales. Scotland has its own system. The pilot schemes have simplified the legal process according to the police. By April 2014 every police area will have one of these traffic courts.

They will be overseen by so-called ‘specialist prosecutors’ who will deal with up to one hundred and sixty cases a day. This is where the idea gets a bit more concerning. Magistrates are appointed from the populace. They don’t need specialist legal qualifications but that do have to meet long established standards of fairness and community spirit, amongst other things. They receive training and have a legal adviser on hand.

In what way then are these traffic courts any different? Who appoints these ‘specialist prosecutors’ and where do they come from? If they are members of the public who volunteer to serve and who receive training for the job, doesn’t that make them magistrates? Get the idea?

We sincerely hope that these court officers are not members of the police force for example. Neither should they be legal professionals. Mind you, they only have jurisdiction in the ninety percent of cases where the miscreant motorist pleads guilty to the said minor offence. Thankfully, if the driver wants to contest the case it has to be heard in a proper magistrates court. So maybe that nagging concern isn’t justified, although it is still hanging in the air like a bad smell from the boot of the car.

Perhaps it is because motorists have been a cash-cow for local and national governments for years that it smacks a bit of being a money-making exercise. We’ll see. In the meantime the law obviously has to be enforced and if it speeds things up for all concerned and saves tax payers money in the long term it may not be a bad thing. Let us just hope that the rule of fairness and impartiality still applies.

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Kerb Your Enthusiasm

With the advent of a new year comes new possibilities. At least, this is how Gwynedd Council in North Wales are looking at it. Apparently they have decided that it isn’t sufficient to just penalise drivers for parking in the wrong place or going over time in car parks, they now believe that how a car is parked is also ripe for exploitation.

This forward-looking council have started penalising any driver who parks more than fifty centimetres (that’s twenty inches in English) from the kerb. Do so and you’ll cop a £70 fine. Now, it’s fair to say that 50cm is quite a long way in gap terms and anyone parking in such a way could best be described as ‘sloppy’. Kerbing an alloy usually means an expensive repair, but most experienced drivers could probably manage to get within the limit as a matter of routine unless they stop in an enthusiastic manner to greet an old friend or to escape the attentions of an angry wasp in the cabin.

Anyone, even disabled drivers, will be punished even if there are no parking restrictions whatever. Traffic wardens are required to actually measure the gap, they can’t just estimate it by eye. Presumably they will take a snap as well. More pertinently and reasonably, they are also targeting motorists who park over dropped kerbs designed to accommodate pedestrians, wheel chair users and the like. That’s fair enough because blocking such access is a thoughtless action.

The council intends this as a warning to those who park, in their words, ‘recklessly’, which is a bit over-the-top, frankly; although some people are capable of such bad parking that they could impede emergency vehicles. They have done this, they say, in response to complaints about bad parking in popular holiday areas. They don’t actually say how many complaints but hey, why look a gift horse in the mouth?

Inevitably locals are outraged as they see it as yet another ruse to extract cash from the public. The sight of a kneeling traffic warden bending over the kerb, buttocks aloft, may prove to be just too tempting for some drivers to resist. It is things like this that give councils a bad name. It seems such a petty thing to do. By all means penalise people who park irresponsibly but to punish a pensioner for a simple error of judgement seems like a tax too far.

It is of course only a matter of time before other councils pick up on this and begin measuring kerb to tyre distances. Just one more thing for hard-pressed drivers to worry about. In the meantime, if you’re taking a holiday in North Wales this year make sure there’s a tape measure and a camera in the glove box! You didn’t hear it from us though.

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Cameras to Cut Littering

Here we go again. Another use for CCTV cameras on Britain’s roads. This time, the idea is to catch the sort of people who throw litter from their car instead of finding a bin or taking it home. On the face of it, this is a good thing. Any right-thinking citizen, driving along our highways, will bemoan the rubbish fluttering gaily in our hedgerows, irresponsibly thrown out by cretins who couldn’t care less. It’s nasty and costs councils countrywide millions of pounds to clean it up. The Highways Agency says 700,000 bin bags full are thrown onto our roads annually.

Littering has always been an offence and rightly so. In London, a little noticed change in the law now allows all of the 33 councils in the Capital to prosecute car owners if junk is thrown from a car. The Local Government Association wants this rolled out nationwide. Councils monitoring the thousands of CCTV cameras will prosecute the owner of the car regardless of who the driver or passengers are. Makes you think twice about lending out your precious wheels. Previously, authorities had to prove who threw the litter. This is where the problem lies.

In a fair society you are innocent until proven guilty, which is as it should be. The worry is that this would be exploited by councils whose motivation is really the collection of fines. A parent who lends their car to their offspring will now be liable, despite being innocent. Similarly, in another change to the law, car owners will be liable for any parking tickets issued. Again, there is no onus on police or councils to prove who was responsible. Car owners are to be penalised for doing nothing wrong.

Drivers are already routinely spied upon by the use of automatic number plate recognition devices, countrywide. Essentially, details of the movement of your car is held on computer for two years, tracking your every move. It is estimated that there are 14.5 million, yes million, readings every day! Despite the authorities repeated statements to the effect that all this surveillance is for our own good and helps them to catch criminals and terrorists, it is interesting to note some stats.

The Metropolitan Police admit that fewer than one crime is solved by every 1000 CCTV units. Further, they confirm that it costs them £4 million every year just to watch TV. Critics reckon that this raises serious concerns about how these cameras are used to allegedly fight crime. For information – there are thought to be 4 million CCTV cameras in Britain. They are looking at you.

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