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Fury as 90,000 police officers caught speeding are 'let off'

UK Daily Mail | May 28, 2007 
JAMES SLACK

Only 354 of 90,000 police caught on camera speeding or jumping red lights last year were punished.

Last night forces were accused of double standards after it emerged that only one in 200 officers was fined or given points, compared with 84 per cent of ordinary drivers.

In a quarter of the cases the police cars had their blue lights flashing, suggesting officers were attending an emergency.

However, nearly all of the rest had the slate wiped clean by senior police, saving them from three points on their licence and a £60 fine.

Managers have the discretion to cancel tickets if an officer can persuade them they had a good reason for speeding, such as pursuing a suspect or trying to find a witness.

But critics point out motorists enjoy no such rights and that if they want to challenge a fixed penalty notice they must go to court.

They also say the disparity between the figures raises the suspicion that thousands of officers are being let off even if they do not have a valid excuse for speeding.

Dianne Ferreira, spokesman for road safety charity Brake, said: "Police officers should not be speeding in the first place.

"They should be setting an example and they should have to face the force of the law like everybody else when they break the rules."

Edmund King, of the RAC Foundation, said that even if more than a quarter of the cases were emergencies, the figures still appeared "excessive".

He added: "Speed cameras are there for a reason and they should apply to all motorists."

Paul Smith, founder of the Safespeed campaign, said: "These figures will add considerably to the public suspicion that 'It's one rule for them and another for the rest of us'."

The figures, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, cover 28 police forces in England and Wales.

Police said there were 90,480 incidents of speed or traffic cameras being "activated" by their vehicles. The number of officers actually served with a fixed penalty notice was 354.

The total number of officers who have escaped a penalty is likely to be much higher, as there are 43 police forces and figures were unavailable for the remaining 15.

The percentage of fixed penalty notices issued varied dramatically from force to force.

In 2006 in Avon and Somerset 863 police cars were caught on camera and 54 officers ended up paying £60 fixed penalty fines, a total of 6.2 per cent.

But in Thames Valley, more than 4,000 police cars were captured speeding or jumping red lights - and not one officer was issued with a ticket.

The largest totals related to the Metropolitan Police where 48,222 police cars activated cameras and 57 officers ended up with £60 fines and having three points on their licence - a mere 0.1 per cent.

Not all officers found to be at fault were issued with fixed penalty notices. Some were issued with written warnings while others were ordered to attend speed awareness workshops.

The figures will heighten concern that officers routinely drive too fast.

There are around 20,000 accidents involving police cars, vans or motorcycles each year. A quarter occur while the vehicles are involved in an emergency call or in pursuit, rather than on routine duties.

Last year, there were 48 deaths in accidents involving police cars.

A spokesman for the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: "There's an expectation that officers should get to the scene of an incident as quickly as they can.

"Safety is paramount for all members of the public but sometimes officers have to break speed limits or go through red lights.

"But at the same time common sense must prevail. It doesn't give officers carte blanche to be a danger to the public.

"Risks will continue to be there but all our officers are trained to have the peak level of skills and are held accountable when there is an accident."

The Association of Chief Police Officers said each case of an officer being caught by a speed camera should be treated on its merits.

 

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