London, 18 May 2001.
For immediate release.

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Minister admits Police targeting Drivers instead of Real Criminals
Clanger-prone Home Office Minister, Charles Clarke, has inadvertently confirmed what the Association of British Drivers has for some time suspected: that motorists are intentionally being targeted by the Police Service in preference to the pursuit of real criminals.
There were 906,468 (reported) burglaries in England and Wales during 1999-2000 and 9.5 million motoring offences. The Rt.Hon. Mr. Clarke admitted in the Commons that it was easier for police to prosecute a motorist caught for speeding than it was to pursue a burglar, who had often vanished by the time police arrived. He denied direct comparisons could be made, saying burglaries "require investigation and proof before a charge can result". There is presumably no such requirement for drivers, who are guilty simply by virtue of the activity in which they are involved?

Of course, this is simply because with motoring offences it is generally easy, painless and quick to register the alleged offence, assert the (generally compliant, uncomplaining) perpetrator's guilt and exact the corresponding financial penalties.

In comparison, burglars or violent criminals tend to try to evade capture; almost invariably resist arrest when apprehended; and anyway have a one-in-four chance of the charges being dropped if the Crown Prosecution Service actually deigns to consider invoking court proceedings [Ref.1].

The Motoring Public represents a very amply-sized Cash Cow to the cash-strapped Police Service. Speed related motoring offences - 99.9% of which are pursued through to (an almost inevitably successful) conviction - when lumped in with all the other crimes, substantially boost the Service's apparent effectiveness, as measured by crime clear-up rates.

But we all know the real situation: violent muggers - on foot or motorised - roaming the streets unchallenged, unpoliced "no-go" areas in many cities and towns, pensioners attacked and brutally beaten in their own homes etc..

Meanwhile the Home Office is much more interested in e.g., Type Approval for the exploitation of high volume speed enforcement devices like SpeedCheck Services' SPECS digital number plate recognition system.

After all, what do the the lives of a few pensioners and mugging victims matter? If one's primary interest is in "budgets" and "cost-effectiveness", solving crimes like these only costs money. On the other hand, prosecuting drivers "guilty" of safely exceeding increasingly unrealistic and arbitrary limits on high quality roads makes pots of it.

Aided & abetted by social "scientists", image obsessed "spin-doctors" and "bean-counters", the Home Office through this obsession with "cost-effectiveness" (measured by crime clear-up rates) is reaping the bitter harvest of years of under-investment in the Police Service. Intentionally or otherwise, this has pushed the Service into a position in which it is frequently guilty of making important that which it is easy to measure, instead of trying to measure and deal with what is actually important.

The response of Glen Smythe, of the Metropolitan Police Federation, was: "What gets measured gets done and what isn't measured for government targets, doesn't. The criminal justice system has got it all out of kilter. We treat the motorist like a pariah and the burglar like a victim".

Year by year, the Home Office is spending ever more on less and less effective "road safety" measures. Soon it will be spending its total budget on activities that achieve nothing all - except engendering a massive public backlash.

Such are the perils of allowing social scientists, image-consultants and bean-counters free rein and unregulated power. But then, to misquote Oscar Wilde: a social scientist/ image consultant/ accountant is generally someone who "knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing". How else could the Home Office, DETR and Police Service willingly and knowingly persist with such an evidently unbalanced and blatantly unethical suite of law enforcement policies?

The Mail on Sunday summed up the current intolerable situation in its editorial of May 6th, 2001: "The public is now left pondering the disturbing irony that while the criminal justice system leaves our streets and public places under the control of robbers and thugs, it thinks nothing of coming down like a ton of bricks on easier targets who, arguably, have committed no crime". If you drive a motor vehicle, this sounds all too familiar.

Ref.1: "They Call It Justice", by B. Lawrence, Book Guild Ltd., ISBN 1-85776-372-6

 

Notes for Editors