Letters to the chief constable

Not really a story - more a continuance of your recent articles ref speed cameras. Enclosed my recent letter to Chief Constable West Yorkshire and original letter FYI.

Dear Chief Constable, I was very disappointed not to receive a reply to my original letter (copy enclosed) dated 26th May 2006, with reference to mobile speed cameras, following my prosecution in a car in March last year.. In addition to being a car driver, I am a regular motorcyclist, and frequently buy Motorcycle News. Imagine my surprise when in the copy dated 17th October 2007, and 24th October 2007 (copies enclosed), there were articles which refer to the fact that Kent Police has suspended use of its Police operated speed cameras due to calibration issues.

Further, it states that the issues could be similar nationwide, and Police could have been incorrectly prosecuting motorcycle riders and drivers for some considerable time. Further damning evidence has been heard on the radio and television over the last week or so. The lack of co-operation by Kent Police when questioned on the subject by the press has all the markings of a “dumbing-down” policy. Together with a huge array of evidence available on the internet, there has never been a time where mobile cameras have come under such scrutiny by both the national press and the “man-on-the-street”, and clearly this movement is gaining momentum.

Certainly, motorcycling organisations who have the considerations of all motorcyclists including their members at heart, have already made protests in London on a variety of road-related subjects including the use of bus lanes and speed cameras, bringing the City to a virtual halt on more than one occasion. Surely, this people-power must be acknowledged. In my mind, and I believe this will be the opinion of millions of UK citizens, motorists, motorcyclists or not, there is enough evidence to suggest that there is reasonable doubt to the validity of prosecutions made using mobile speed cameras. To that end, I have three requests: Remove all mobile speed cameras from use immediately pending official investigation by the Department of Transport, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

As the refunding of fines is both impractical and unlikely, then refund the points on all licences incurred within the last 3 years (and yes, that does include three points for me). Attempt to develop these policies with Police Forces nationwide. I have always stated, and will vehemently continue to do so, that mobile cameras (unlike static cameras) have little to do with road safety, and are merely a revenue-raising ploy by underfunded Police Authorities with insufficient numbers of Police Officers on the streets, allowing real criminals to continue undetected. Therefore, I will continue to voice my views where the law “is an ass”, and will continue to do so whilst freedom of speech remains part of this country's culture. Improper prosecutions are the worst kind, and it is the duty of every Chief Constable in the country to do something positive to right this basic wrong. Sir, I would appreciate your comments. You will note that Motorcycle News has been copied in on this letter, and so your reply would go into the public domain.

Yours Faithfully, S. M. Bilson.

May 2006 Notice of Intended Prosecution.

Dear Chief Constable, As you are probably aware, Thornton Road from Bradford City centre, through to Thornton itself, is peppered throughout with multiple fixed speed cameras, marked as required in yellow paint. As the road is long, has potential for increased speeds, is a fairly “built-up” area, and has multiple junctions and associated hazards along it, the placing of fixed cameras is completely justified. You can imagine my surprise when the enclosed Notice arrived on my doormat. On the day concerned I was in a hire car, and had attached my Garmin Sat Nav “Quest” system into the car. Firstly, where the mobile van was positioned was not clearly marked, and there was no indication in the previous section of road of the vans presence.

The van itself was positioned some 300 yards or so AFTER the entrance to a school on the left, and a short distance from an increased limit of 40 MPH. The area is not well “built-up”, in fact the road becomes wider and almost entirely rural just after the 40 MPH sign. Enquiries with local residents around 4.00pm indicated that they have no history of accidents or other motoring related incidents, the area was vacated by schoolchildren – mostly under-5's, having been collected from school at 3.00pm by parents.

Clearly there was no logical or legal requirement to place such a speed trap at that location. It would have been better served further towards the city centre, where motorists slow down for the fixed speed cameras, and speed up in between them. As I was unfamiliar with the make and model of car I was driving, I was using my Sat Nav as a speedometer. This measures movement using triangulated satellites, and is correct to within 10 metres. Suggested accuracy on speed is to within +/- 2% of the displayed figure.

The displayed figure was between 32 and 33 MPH. As you will be aware the only way to correctly measure speed is with time over a specific distance i.e. the time taken to travel the distance between two fixed points. I have never believed that mobile cameras in vans are accurate to anything approaching that level. Indeed, the Internet is full of information and evidence that indicates that such van mounted cameras can be affected by vibration, other traffic, weather conditions, certain materials in a reflective capacity, glass, radar detectors etc. Should you wish to review your findings, and the information above, and mitigate in my favour, this would be much appreciated.

However, I do not wish to go to court to defend my case, and as there is little chance of you agreeing with the above, I have enclosed my licence and the required Fixed Penalty, fully expecting 3 points added to my licence. I believe that in reality the above van mounted camera was placed there for no other choice but to raise revenue, to capitalize on motorists who prefer to concentrate on the road instead of worrying about exceeding the limit by a couple of MPH. Further, the likelihood of me winning the case in court is nil, as you can afford your technical experts who are quite prepared to baffle Magistrates – as long as you keep buying their speed cameras.

In closing, I wish to make the following statement. The actions of your Officer in the van, and the manner and method of the Notice of Intended Prosecution have only confirmed my belief that this country is heading towards a “Big Brother “ mentality with regard to its police service. My driving is good, careful and safe – what happened to an Officer giving me a warning? As a law abiding, conscientious citizen, the Notice has only alienated me further with regard to mobile police cameras, as I now firmly believe they have nothing to do with safety whatsoever. Casualty reduction is vital where there is a need to enforce it. When located un-necessarily, it only raises revenue and creates bad feeling. Dick Turpin raised revenue on a horse. Where's the difference?

Yours Faithfully, S. M. Bilson.

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Steve Bilson

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By Steve Bilson