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Motorists face a new army of car snoopers

UK Daily Mail | June 8, 2007
RAY MASSEY

Motorists face being clamped and fined at the roadside by an army of uniformed Government inspectors, it has emerged.

Drivers whose vehicles are judged unroadworthy, have overly tinted windows, lack a valid tax disc or MoT will be subject to being pulled over by examiners from the Vehicle Operator and Services Agency, if new proposals are accepted.

It is planned to give the 560 VOSA inspectors - who wear black uniforms, peaked hats and yellow jackets - powers previously held only by the police to issue fixed penalty fines.

And their workload, which currently focuses on commercial vehicles, will extend to private motorists.

Under the proposals, if they find that a car has already been banned from the road - or believe the driver is likely to ignore the fixed penalty fine - they will have powers to immobilise the vehicle.

But they will not be able to issue speeding tickets and penalty points.

The proposals were outlined yesterday in a consultation document which the Department of Transport said was aimed mainly at cracking down on lorries from abroad which flout UK laws with impunity. But the proposals have fuelled concern about the growing numbers of uniformed civilian agencies being given powers that were once the preserve of the police.

Edmund King of the RAC Foundation said: 'Our major worry is this growing army of uniformed bureaucrats.

"We now have decriminalised parking with private-sector parking wardens. On the motorways the Highways Agency have been given police- style powers to direct traffic. Now we have VOSA issuing fixed penalties.

"We are not against targeting rogue lorries. But vulnerable motorists such as lone women are being flagged down by uniformed people who are not police.

"This dilution of powers makes it difficult for drivers to tell if they should or shouldn't stop when flagged down. We think VOSA's powers to issue fixed penalty notices should be restricted only to lorries, not cars."

The consultation document notes: "The Road Safety Act will amend the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (RTOA) to give VOSA vehicle examiners equivalent powers to those already vested in the police to issue fixed penalty notices."

The Department of Transport said the changes would speed up enforcement and free up the courts. It added: "The current fixed penalty scheme administered by the police has resulted in considerable savings in time."

VOSA estimates that of the 13,500 cases it pursued through the courts in 2005, around 90 per cent could have been dealt with by fixed penalty.

A Transport Department spokesman said: "VOSA already have the power to stop non-commercial drivers, although their work is aimed at commercial vehicles so this rarely occurs.

"Currently if a VOSA examiner does stop a non- commercial vehicle, the examiner can only enforce by taking the offence to court. Under the new measures the examiner would be able to issue a fixed penalty notice."

Foreign lorry drivers will also be hit with on-the-spot fines to stop them flouting UK traffic laws.

Roads Minister Stephen Ladyman said: "This is about making our roads safer and creating a level playing field across Europe."

In another move, ministers are planning a graduated system of penalty points for speeders, with fewer points for drivers just over the limit, but more for those well over it.

 

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