Chief constable: Backlash over speed limit comments based on misunderstanding

A chief constable who sparked a backlash after he appeared to call for drivers to be penalised for going 1mph over the limit has said it was a "misunderstanding".

Anthony Bangham of West Mercia Police appeared to suggest ending the 10% "buffer" over speed limits while speaking at the Police Federation Roads Policing Conference last month.

But in a National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) blog he said the comments he made have led to a perception that the police are going to be "pursuing and prosecuting drivers just 1mph over the speed limit".

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"That is not the case and was never advocated - and I now need to clear up the misunderstanding," he wrote in the post published on Sunday.

With concern amongst those at the conference over an increase in the deaths and injuries, he said he was asked about speed limits and the so-called "buffer zone".

Existing guidance suggests police should only issue penalties for drivers caught at 10% plus 2mph over the limit - for example 35mph in a 30mph zone.

Mr Bangham added: "I said we should be clearer with the public that the limit is set for a reason and you can be stopped and action taken against you when you are over it.

"The logical conclusion of that argument, and the way it has been widely reported, is that we're going after people just 1mph over the limit.

"I now want to be clearer on this point - our aim is not to be pursuing drivers 1mph over the speed limit and putting them through the courts. This would not be proportionate or achievable."

Average Speed Camera study
Average Speed Camera study

According to the Daily Mail, Mr Bangham, NPCC lead on road policing, said in his speech: "They should not come whinging to us about getting caught.

"If booked at 35 or 34 or 33 (in a 30mph zone) that cannot be unfair because they are breaking the law."

He also said speeding awareness courses were being used too widely instead of penalty points and fines.

The comments sparked concerns amongst some police leaders who said at the time that the apparent proposals were "out of touch" and the current scheme is "not soft on drivers".

Chief Inspector Ian Hanson, chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation, criticised the speech, saying it is "alienating those communities we are there to serve".

Chief Constable David Thompson, of West Midlands Police, also disagreed with Mr Bangham's criticism of speed awareness courses, arguing they are "very successful" and admitted having attended one himself.

In his blog Mr Bangham stressed how the focus on the 1mph issue "detracted from the real point" he wanted to make - which is drivers "shouldn't just assume they've got a free pass to drive over the limit".

"Speed enforcement has always been a thorny issue since it can encompass even the most law-abiding of us & has the potential to damage the relationship between the service and overwhelming proportion of the public who support local police" - Ian Hanson.

-- GMP Federation (@GMPFederation) February 2, 2018

He highlighted how officers have "discretion" to act in some circumstances, and that if for example someone is a couple of miles over the limit outside a school, an officer "could reasonably decide it is proportionate to stop them".

"Our priority for action is always going to be the most dangerous drivers but the reality is many drivers now routinely drive above the speed limit," he said.

"Of course common sense must be applied, but there should not be a 'comfort zone' over the speed limit where it is considered safe to speed. The limit is the limit for a reason."

Mr Bangham said he was not speaking from a "desire to punish drivers", but to fulfil the responsibility for helping to keep the roads safe.

"Deaths and injuries on the road ruin the lives of victims, their families and friends and we see this every day," he added.

"As police officers it's important that we are not apologetic for enforcing laws that are there to keep us all safe."

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