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Judge not lest ye be judged

It’s commonly accepted that Philip Hammond is pissed off because he wasn’t appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the coalition government, and had to settle for being Transport Secretary instead. But that’s no excuse for taking his frustration out on the rest of the nation. Mr Hammond announced today that he plans to give police officers the right to impose on the spot fines for careless driving, making them complainant, prosecutor and judge all rolled into one.

A step too far, surely. Spot fines for parking, fine. Fixed penalties for speeding, fine. Neither of those offences requires a subjective judgement. But careless driving, surely that does, and it begs the question: how well qualfied are the police to exercise such authority over their fellow road users?

I’ve just done a small piece of research into stats available under freedom of information provisions. I looked at police collisions in London Boroughs from April 2009 to March 2010. During that period there were a total of 1627 compensation claims made following accidents, leading to payments totalling £1,703,983. These incidents resulted in 197 police officers and 249 civilians being injured and to six members of the public being killed.

I ask again. On what basis are the police qualified to determine what is careless driving and what is not?

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