April 13, 2004 at 8:35 pm #8764XV16Participant
Chief charged with politicising speed
A WELSH chief constable has been accused of turning speeding into a political agenda which threatens to alienate the police from the public.
Former North Wales AM David Jones pointed the finger at North Wales Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom, who has taken a hard line on motorists caught on camera breaking the speed limit.
Mr Jones said, “Mr Brunstrom is, in effect, pursuing a political agenda, not in the party political sense, but in the sense of seeking actively to change the law and putting proposals forward, radical policy proposals.
“He is, however, pursuing that agenda from his position of power without the benefit of a popular mandate. Nobody ever voted for Chief Constable Brunstrom. He was appointed. That is the way the system currently works.”
Mr Jones said people would become “increasingly and dangerously alienated” unless a more democratic system was adopted.
It was also claimed the motorist has become the “cash cow” for the Treasury which has collected more than £13m from speeding drivers in Wales in one year.
Assembly figures reveal the number of fixed-penalty notices or prosecutions in Wales for speeding offences have increased by 820% in five years.
Tory transport spokesman Alun Cairns slammed the rise from 24,100 fixed-penalty fines or prosecutions in 1998 to 221,700 in 2002.
He told the conference, “The figures are staggering and clearly demonstrate that speed cameras are being used as a revenue-raising source rather than as an effective measure of reducing road accidents. The Government is quite obviously using the motorist as the cash cow for the Treasury.”
Mr Cairns said speed cameras were being placed in areas which were not accident blackspots – an “insult” to motorists.
“There is one speed camera along the M4 stretch near Port Talbot which actually causes many accidents because of the sudden breaking by the motorist, which means this stretch of the motorway is regularly grid-locked at peak traffic hours.
“However the Assembly Government’s own figures show this area is not an accident blackspot.”
At £60 for each fixed-penalty fine, the figures reveal that in Wales alone £13.3m was raised in just one year. The South Wales West AM said he wants the cash, currently ring- fenced for traffic schemes, to be used to help police in the fight against crime.
“It is frustrating that the finance raised is restricted to traffic matters rather than aiding the police in their wider responsibilities of catching muggers and burglars,” he added.
The issue of how best to tackle speeding motorists has escalated into a political row because of the campaign by Mr Brunstrom.
Mr Jones called for police authorities to be elected by the public rather than appointed by the Government, local authorities and magistrates.
He said, “The police authority would have the right, and the responsibility, to reflect the concerns of voters in setting the policing agenda in their force area.
“At the same time, the operational independence of the Chief Constable would be preserved and guaranteed. This would be a healthy development both in terms of local democracy and in terms of restoring public support for the police.”
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