This post is in response to a post by PCSO Bloggs entitled Section 59 for speeding? whereby North Wales Police have been giving drivers a Section 59 Warning for breaking the speed limit. I thoroughly recommend that you should read her blog if you have not already done so.
I think that giving a Section 59 warning for speeding is a bit of a grey area. It has to be remembered that speeding is a specific offence under Section 89(1) Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Just because you are speeding does not mean that you are driving carelessly or inconsiderately. As the legislation states under Section 59 Police Reform Act 2002 a warning and subsequent vehicle seizure can only take place if the motor vehicle is being used in a manner which:
a) contravenes section 3 or 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) (careless and inconsiderate driving and prohibition of off-road driving), and
b) is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public.
Whilst the speeding motorist could be causing alarm, distress or annoyance to the local villagers if there was nothing else about their manner of driving that made it careless such as wheels screeching, crossing the centre white line on to the wrong side of the road because they took a corner too quick, overtaking a motorist travelling at the correct speed limit or tailgating the motorist in front because they are not travelling as fast I cannot see how the Sec 59 warning would be legal or valid.
In my force it is policy that if you issue a Sec 59 warning or seize a vehicle that already has a warning you must report the driver for the offence of careless or inconsiderate driving or issue an FPN for the off-road driving. This would mean the writing of a witness statement by the officer or the taking of a witness statement from member of the public that had witnessed the manner of driving. You then have the evidence to back up the warning if it was to be appealed by the driver.
Also if you are not dealing with the driver for any offence how can you justify giving out the Sec 59 warning in the first place? Whilst I understand that the North Wales Police shown in the article gave a warning on the back of a speeding ticket I do not see how their warnings were valid.
If a driver who had received one of these warnings then subsequently had their vehicle seized I think they would have a good case to appeal the seizure on the grounds that they had not driven carelessly. The instigation of prosecution under Sec 3 RTA or the issuing of an FPN under Sec 34 RTA which is then paid by the offender would remove the grounds for appeal.
So in conclusion I do not see how North Wales Police can be issuing valid / legal Sec 59 Warnings on the back of speeding tickets if they cannot prove an offence under Sec 3 RTA, and if such an offence could have been proven why did they not opt for that offence over speeding as it is a more serious offence and carries a harsher punishment at court. If any of these warnings were to be appealed I think North Wales Police could be made to look a bit daft and have to refund any charges incurred by the driver or the driver would have good grounds to claim abuse of process at court.
I have disabled comments on this post because this is just my response to PCSO Blogg’s original post. If you wish to comment please click here to be taken to her original post to leave your comment.
Filed under: News, PCSO, Police | 1 Comment
I found this post on PC Bloggs site about NCRS and using the example of Drive Off’s to show how things used to be and how they are dealt with now. I am quite lucky now in that I rarely get to deal with a drive off because all of the enquiries are completed by the CSO’s. They are only passed to a PC when a suspect has been identified. However even when this is the case, most of them go nowhere because the evidence has too many holes in it.
In my force each petrol station is supplied with a number of “Bilking Packs” by the beat officer. This includes a pro-forma statement so that all the shop staff have to do is fill in the blanks and all of the evidential points are covered. It also includes exhibit labels and Video Evidence bags. If the protocol is followed correctly when a drive off happens it is immediately phoned in on the 9’s so that obs can be put out for the vehicle to give some chance of catching the offender, then the shop assistant should complete the bilking pack as soon as possible so that it is all ready for collection when the PC or CSO attends. What usually happens is the shop staff are on the minimum wage and do not want to get involved with the police or attend court as a witness or they are immigrants who cannot read or write English and can barely speak it. Therefore they do not understand the very simple fill-in-the-blanks pro-forma statement so they save it for the manager to fill in another day. Obviously the manager didn’t witness the drive off so the statement cannot be used evidentially because the contents is all hearsay.
I do not think that the police should investigate bilkings’ anymore. It is just a big waste of our time and could be stopped over night. Many other countries operate a pre-pay service where you have to go into the shop to pre-pay before the pump is authorised to dispense fuel, or they offer an attended service. Some of the petrol stations have invested heavily in security systems to try and catch the offenders such as ANPR built into their CCTV systems to record all of the number plates and one has even installed a system of spikes that pop up at the forecourt exit to pop the tyres of any vehicle trying to make off.
I have heard it said that it all drive offs should be dealt with as a civil debt and not a criminal offence because once the pump has been authorised to dispense fuel the garage is giving the customer the fuel on credit on the condition that they enter the shop to pay for it. No other type of shop would let you fill up your shopping trolly, then leave the store to load your car with the goods on the condition that you then returned to the checkout to pay for the items afterwards would they??
People say that it is still criminal because the driver filled up their car with the intention of driving off and not offering any payment therefore the criminal intent is there, but I would throw this back at them using the example of credit card companies.
I could decide to apply for a credit card with the sole intention of maxing it out once I receive it and never repaying the balance. This would never be dealt with as a criminal matter by the police because they would say it was a civil debt between me and the credit card company. The same criminal intent was present when I applied for the card but it would be up to the card company to recover the debt through the County Court or bailiffs. Why should petrol stations be treated any differently?
This crime could be stopped overnight if the petrol station companies changed their business methods and obtained payment first. Sure people would moan, but if all petrol stations did it, it would then become the norm and everybody would come to accept it.
Filed under: PCSO, Police | 11 Comments