They are according the Magistrates’ Association today.
Chris Hunt Cooke, chair of the Association’s road traffic committee spoke out regarding new powers which may see police officers able to dish out Ã‚Â£60 fixed penalty tickets & 3 points for careless driving.
Proposed new powers will allow officers to decide between sending a bad driver to court or handing them an ‘on-the-spot’ fine. Officers have had the powers to hand out fines for traffic offences such as no seatbelt, for many years, latterly they have also been able to fine people for low-level drunkenness & disorder.
Police chiefs argue that the new fixed penalty system will free officers from having to spend time preparing court files when they report drivers for careless driving.
Mr Hunt Cooke said: “Regrettably, recent experience with out-of-court disposals shows that the police cannot be relied on to use them appropriately or as intended. Once they have been given these powers, the police will misuse them, that is a certainty, and careless driving will be generally treated as a minor offence, unless serious injury is involved.
“This is a proposal that places the convenience of the police above what is right in principle, may coerce innocent drivers into accepting a fixed penalty, and is certain generally to downgrade careless driving in terms of offence seriousness.”
Hunt Cooke further says that only magistrates are truly capable of deciding how serious a bad piece of driving can be, presumably because these unpaid people usually with no skills or knowledge of any particular aspect of the law, will be truly versed in what is good, bad & terrible on the roads of the UK, while police officers, many of whom are experts in the field of driving are not. Strangely, when I was handing out speeding tickets I was quite capable of deciding who should be cautioned, who should have a ticket & who should go to court based purely on the evidence I had seen first-hand with a lifetime of policing the country’s roads. They used to call it discretion (OK I know the government did away with this when they brought in the target culture).
The Department of Transport is currently considering whether to extend police powers to hand out tickets for Careless Driving & will report back later this year.