'TRICKS' BOOKLET MISLEADS: RESEARCHER
Speeding advice intimidates and is untruthful
Sent out with speed camera tickets, the booklet gives details of "Operation Cheetah" as well as offering some pro-speed camera publicity. Operation Cheetah is intended to catch people who attempt to evade speeding tickets dishonestly, which in itself is probably no bad thing.
But according to Paul Smith, founder of the road safety group Safe Speed the booklet goes "far too far" and "seeks to intimidate those who may have a legitimate defence."
John Josephs, a solicitor specialising in motoring law, said: ""While I accept that there is a small minority of motorists who might resort to measures of the kind set out in this booklet, I am appalled that Greater Manchester police should try to mislead the public by suggesting that all the matters mentioned in the booklet amount to fraud. Some of them, if genuine, amount to a perfectly proper defence in law and for the police to describe someone who puts forward such a defence as a "Cheater" is grossly unfair and is clearly an attempt to frighten people against using their rights.
Nowhere in the booklet do the police advise motorists what to do if they genuinely do not know who was driving. They do not even advise motorists to seek independent legal advice. I consider that this booklet should be withdrawn immediately."
Bluff and bluster
Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign, said: "This appalling booklet goes far too far and deliberately seeks to intimidate drivers who may have a legitimate defence. It contains false and misleading information and falls far below the standards that we are entitled to expect from the Police and the justice system.
"Greater Manchester Police have clearly forgotten that they are public servants and that we are innocent until proven guilty in accordance with the law. For a long time we have been referring to Police tactics in speed camera cases with the phrase: 'bluff and bluster' and this booklet is one of the worst examples of a rot that pervades the system.
"I can only assume that Greater Manchester Police have issued the booklet in the hope that they can spend less time in the future investigating speed camera offences. I've got a better idea -- and I couldn't be more serious -- they need to scrap the cameras and Police the roads properly looking out for all manner of bad driving - not just speeding."
"Mentioning the Association of British Drivers, Safe Speed and Pepipoo on a page entitled 'Trick Dealers' is an unwarranted slur that approaches libel."
Mike Morgan of www.pepipoo.com (a Web site mentioned on the 'Trick dealers" page -- see link to booklet below) said: "The booklet is distasteful and abhorrent. The information it contains is misleading and intimidating. PePiPoo’s mission is to inform the motorist, how the police and judiciary deal with allegations of speeding in real life and especially to provide the information that innocent motorists need to defend themselves."
The single most critical flaw is probably on the page entitled: "Tricks". The leaflet says that "stating that you don't know who was driving..." is a 'trick' employed by drivers. On occasion it might be true - in as much as the claim made is a lie. But in thousands of cases where the claim is true it amounts to a statutory defence.
Examples of bad information
What's clear, as mentioned in PistonHeads' original story, is that the booklet leaves out key information that may be of great importance to innocent motorists. Safe Speed's research has produced the following examples:
- RTOA 1988 S172(4) provides a statutory defence for vehicle owners who cannot identify the driver at the time of the alleged offence. But the booklet implies that use of this statutory defence amounts to fraud.
- RTA 1984 S87 provides a statutory defence for motorists accused of speeding if their vehicle was being used for 'fire police or ambulance purposes' at the time of the alleged offence.
- NHS costs: the information regarding health service costs of crashes is wildly wrong. According to DfT figures, the costs are:
|- Fatal: £5,469|
|- Serious: £12,806|
|- Slight: £2,657|
All cases are very far short of GMP's "£100,000" claim, but more than that, the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 allows the NHS to recover costs from motor insurers. £105.7m was recovered in 2003. Comparing the wrong figure to the cost of other medical treatments is extremely distasteful and misleading, said Safe Speed.
In the tragic story of Rebecca Harrison, taken from Manchester Evening News , words have been changed to 'spin' the article. "Mr Hill's stupidity..." becomes "Mr Hill's selfish speeding..."
The words: "- by simply driving too fast. A moment of madness has destroyed so many lives. It just wasn't worth it!" appear to have been added.
It wasn't mentioned that Rebecca Harrison's death took place at a speed camera site with the driver telling police that he failed to see Rebecca in the road because he was looking at the speed camera.
An article in The Times suggests that over 700,000 people have already 'cheated' speed camera fines by 'points sharing'. This would imply that around 30,000 people have cheated the system in Manchester. Operation Cheater appears to have found some 30 offences -- fewer than 0.1 per cent of the expected total of 'points sharers' not to mention all the other ways that camera fines may be defrauded.
Number plate cloning
|Number plate cloning is a real and fast growing problem. Large numbers of people have received speeding tickets because someone else has used their number plate. But the booklet implies that you would be treated as a fraud if you claimed such a thing, even if true.|
- Page starting: "HERE ARE SOME CHEATERS WHO'VE PAID..."
|"20 men were arrested" - but no reports of charges? What happened to the 20? Suspect misleading.|
- Page starting "Three choices for cheaters"
|The number one choice should be to ask: "Do I have a legitimate defence?" As it stands it is clearly intended to scare people away from exercising their legal rights.|
- Page starting: "There is another way"
All the data on that page is misleading, although the proof is somewhat complex. Here's an example: "Perhaps you think 'speed' might not influence crash frequency but it must influence crash severity. Wrong.
Look at child pedestrian fatalities. We've all see the claims - 20 per cent die in 30mph impacts; 80 per cent die in 40mph impacts. We know from surveys that most vehicles are 'speeding' in 30mph zones. So are more than 20 per cent of child pedestrian injuries fatal?
In 2004, in built-up areas (30 and 40mph speed limits) 11,999 child pedestrians were injured and 58 died. The proportion that died was 0.4 per cent. The reason that we didn't kill more than 2,400 (20 per cent) was because drivers slow down in areas of danger and brake before impact. These behaviours are major factors in mitigating impact speeds.
Sustainable road safety requires psychologically effective policies, said Safe Speed. Speed cameras are bad psychology and are doomed to fail. Slower is only safer when it refers to the speed at impact and impact speeds are dictated by driver responses."
Taken as a whole the leaflet says: "You have no defence. We really need you to roll over and pay up. You are guilty." But the law says something entirely different: "You are innocent until proven guilty".