Joe Public 1 - Police 0

Published: 05 April 2009

As an avid MCN reader and rider, and MCN Forum member, I have felt the compelling need to sit down and write in after your recent stories covering the newly installed ‘Motorcycle Detection Systems’ introduced in Derbyshire.

I am an ‘Average Joe’ who has a job and works Monday to Friday, pay my taxes, my mortgage and all other dues and demands, I don’t smoke, drink a little, but spend my free time and hard earned money on my hobby of Motorcycles.

I do ride a nice sports bike for pleasure of the Italian exotic variety (it’s not a twin!), because I can, when I get the opportunity! Don’t get me wrong, I am no Chris Walker (my local hero! wish I could ride half as good as him though!) but, I am not riding at warp speed through the countryside on a weekend like a lunatic out his straight jacket for a few hours! Just a leisurely ride enjoying the FREEDOM, the fresh outdoors and the bike!

So, in the eyes of the ACPO and government, I am public enemy No.1., Higher ranked in their priorities than Burgulars, Rapists, Drug Dealers, Illegal Immigrants, Drink/Drugged up Drivers, Un-Licenced /Uninsured Drivers etc etc when in comes to police resources to persue me. With the current changes to policing, some forces have completely disbanded their traffic divisions i.e. Nottinghamshire, have made them into Armed Response Units instead! (Info from a serving ex-traffic cop!).

The authorities seem hell bent on automated solutions which can be plugged in and keep generating a huge revenue. The old days of ‘it’s a fair cop’, ‘got him red handed following him down the road at 65’ are confined to the ‘when I where a lad’ chats in the local. Nowadays, you can be banned by post for relatively minor in-discrepancies and be treated as ‘guilty until proven innocent’, or in most cases, they would bully people into thinking that you can’t beat them. Well, you actually can, I DID IT!

After a fixed penalty notice by a mobile camera van in my company car on a bridge in Humberside, I challenged it and my barristers defence was to be, ‘Your equipment possibly detected a vehicle bearing a similar number plate to my client at an alleged speed etc etc.’ ‘Could your officer POSITIVELY IDENTIFY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT the driver of the vehicle detected at the time in a line up of people?’ How COULD he answer yes under oath when on a bridge 400yards away 30ft above the road in the back of a van???

Hence 2 days before my hearing, the CPS DROPPED the case against me for the speeding AND failing to provide details of the driver. Humberside police ended up paying my costs at around £1700 for the original £80 fixed penalty!! Jo Public 1-Police 0.

Therefore, ANY convictions from automated equipment is questionable, as they CANNOT positively identify the driver/rider AT THE TIME, Only the VEHICLE. So, despite the recent law ammendment, It still relies on a person being forced to incriminate themselves to enable a conviction. A practice widespread with police to get convictions in the past, where reviews have since had convicted persons released from prison due to 'suspect evidence at the time of the trial or forced confessions'.

The truth be known, any automated/remote system CANNOT take into consideration the ACTUAL DRIVER at the time. Does the person driving/ridingat the time have a valid licence? Is he/she insured to drive/ride the vehicle? (not the vehicles registered owner) Is he/she under the influence of Drink or Drugs?? Is he concentrating or busy texting on his/her mobile at the time?? And as before, can the robot PROVE BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT who was driving/riding at that time? But surely Law number 1, Innocent until PROVEN guilty still applies? And that by providing information you are incriminating yourself, surely it should be down to the police to PROVE something rather force an admission?

One for MCN Law to investigate please! I am enraged at the audacity of these people in local authority positions like Robert Hill and Andy Addlington, of the Derbyshire Camera Partnership who can spend MY tax Payers money on these projects under the flag of ‘its for our own good -to cut casualties on roads’ and that is their justification? Bollocks! They should be ASHAMED to even try and associate with the biking community, after all what would Matlock be WITHOUT bikers? I bet the local shop keepers would be closing up without the revenue from the thousands of bikers visiting from all over the country!

Government targets and money available to achieve them is the real issue, people like Robert Hill (Knob) see the golden goose and go to catch it, then get brownie points for securing government cash and get there ugly mugs in MCN looking Smug. I bet they would soon be objecting if someone began tracking their everyday movements and threatening to put crush orders on there personal vehicles! This is an outright abuse of civil liberties and personal data abuse. DVLA Records seem to be available to all and sundry, they may as well put everyones details in GOOGLE! What happened to data protection act when NO OFFENCE has been committed!

What I would like to know is, how do these projects costing £100k+ get signed off/approved without any public consultation? After all it is TAXPAYERS MONEY from the local authorities and central government being used to fund it. Over the years I have endured 2 car thefts, 1 bike theft, a major house break in, and half the time you are all on getting the fucking police to give you a crime number and regarding catching the perpetrators, forget it! They have NEVER caught/convicted ANYONE for ANY of the offences against me and if they did, they would be out with a £30 fine and community service. The police attitude is, well you are insured…… Yet when I am out on my bike on a sunny Sunday I get pulled for a ‘slightly to small number plate’ and given a fixed penalty fine, after the copper gave up trying to get me to ‘fess up’ to speeding, (which I wasn’t anyway!).

After already checking prior to pulling me that my bike was taxed, insured and MOT’d and I had a valid licence (with 6 points) – Not bad considering they where pulling me for an illegal plate that was to small to read (Should have told him to go to SpecSavers! LOL).

On a typical weekend day some Police forces spend vast amounts of money targeting bikers, loads of police presence in cars/vans loitering around, Police helicopter up for hours flying over to catch out bikers, how can they justify the cost? When we go out for a ride on a Sunday, we ride for pleasure, I bet ALL the police are on Overtime! Paid for by US again! So, in the grand scheme of things, I wonder how many TOTAL convictions they prosecute at fixed penalty rates on a Sunday operation in Derbyshire and what the actual cost is in manpower and helicopter running/maintenance costs for the operation to take place? I wonder if YOU could find out via MCN under freedom of information act? It doesn’t take a genius to work it out that the expense far outweighs the revenue.

So, if the police force was run by accountants, they would all be out on the beat! Bet they won’t put same resources and funding into day to day crime!! I also have my doubts regarding the legality of the operation of these new systems. If they are logging personal information on a database without a persons knowledge or consent, to cross reference a persons movements whether an offence has been committed or not? Surely this a breach of civil liberty and makes the entire database illegal? Again another story to investigate the law with MCN.

A detection system should acknowledge only offending vehicles-regardless of type. The white van man or Chav boy racer in his Subaru Imprezza or M3 overtaking 5 cars on a stretch of 50mph road at 75mph doesn’t get logged, but Grandad out on his classic BSA goldstar doing 45mph DOES!

In your report, they have announced 8 detectors already in place. This is incorrect. I have driven most of these routes and positively identified more units! For example, the A5004 Long Hill from Buxton to Fernilee, there are TWO units on this same stretch of road, the first on the right side of the road as you break out into the open countryside heading up hill, the second after a sharp right hand bend following a nice deep left hander (with last bungalow to your right on the approach), again on the right at the end of a lay-by. I found another unlisted unit on return down A6 towards Bakewell, again on the right hand side of the road just as you leave the built up area into the valley before you see the river on the left, at the end of a lay-by on the right hand side!

Further along the same stretch of A6, just entering the built up area in Bakewell, I almost missed one, but luckily a Police Camera Partnership van was parked next to it working on it! This on is on A6 Bakewell nearly opposite a street called Vernon Green on the left. This is a different type of box with a branding ‘Golden River Traffic’ on the front, but about same size as others and the tell-tale 4 squares in the road. Not sure if these are GSM units though? I may have to search the Tinterweb for info on these…. That is three that wasn’t listed! So I bet there are more around than we think and they admit to.

They seem to favour fitting them near laybys, (Probably so council can get there snap cabin parked up when they are installing them! LOL), so something to make people aware of! The boxes themselves are mostly dark green, and most have solar panels stuck on the top, and as most are in remote, isolated, rural areas, this would suggest they are battery powered with solar chargers. So, these units could be re-sited to different locations quite easily with the addition of new road loops! Unlike Gatso’s Which need mains power to run them. Some have a ‘lamp post’ adjacent with solar panel on top (as on A6 Cromford unit, which is in your photograph I believe) which could also have cameras fitted.

The unit on A621 from Baslow towards Owler Bar is on the LEFT, at brow of the hill hidden behind a camera partnership sign in lay-by. This has an ‘empty’ lamp post beside it with cables hanging out the top, but solar panel is on top of box, so looks like this will be fitted with cameras in near future probably facing both directions!.

The prominent feature on these boxes is the black round plastic GSM antenna about 4” diameter, either stuck on top or on the side. (I know this as I have installed similar devices for commercial use). All the sites have a double loop cut into the road on BOTH SIDES of the road, so it can detect traffic in both directions!. Any ‘suspect’ box will have the 4x approx 3ft squares on the carriageway cut into the road and sealed with tar (like you see at traffic light junctions).