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Traffic Fines – Highway Robbery?

June 11, 2013 by in category News, Traffic Fines tagged as with 0 and 0

BBC Panorama reveals council officials’ delight over increased traffic fines.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act and seen by the BBC’s Panorama programme reveal a target-based, revenue-raising culture at the heart of one of London’s Local Authority traffic enforcement departments.

The Panorama programme comes as councils around the country step up efforts to fine motorists with CCTV and push for permission to use parking fine money to boost Town Hall coffers.[1]

Panorama: Traffic Fines – Highway Robbery? will be shown on Wednesday, 7.30pm on BBC One. It focuses on the new trend to sting motorists with high tech computer driven surveillance cameras.

The programme reveals a huge file of documents unearthed from the council which levies more fines for moving traffic offences than any other in London – Hammersmith and Fulham.

It showed how the council is exploiting a sophisticated new camera system to fine motorists for moving traffic offences, such as stopping in a yellow box junction or making a banned turn.

It also looked at a huge surge in fines outside London which have come about from drivers caught out in bus lanes monitored by CCTV.

The programme has obtained hundreds of emails between employees at the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham which show staff being congratulated on increasing the number of fines being handed out to motorists.

Comments in the emails include:

“Another record month, guys. Well done.”

“Well done. Another increase…holidays, as expected, brings back the traffic”

“Another good month last month. That’s despite the systems problems we had. So well done to everyone.”

One of Britain’s leading specialists on Motoring Law, Jeanette Miller, said

“It’s clear that those emails are indicative of a culture of seeking to issue as many Penalty Charge Notices as they can and that is completely contradictory to the purpose that the local authorities are supposed to serve. Their job is to reduce the number of contraventions.”Jeanette Miller

Last week the Home Office tightened up on the use of CCTV cameras, issuing for the first time a Surveillance Camera Code of Conduct which includes provisions governing the use of cameras used to capture moving traffic offences. The code instructs local authorities to use traffic cameras “sparingly” to avoid any accusation of “over zealous” enforcement. [2]

Panorama monitored one of the country’s most notorious CCTV hotspots, a box junction in Hammersmith that raised £2 million  last year and has caught up to 40,000 drivers a year. Bagleys Lane is just one of several contravention sites in the borough that are causing concern about the high rates of fines being issued.

In a spot test for the programme Panorama erected clearer signs around this junction to assess their impact on drivers. This dipstick test recorded a 25% reduction in the number of vehicles stopping in the box junction, despite an increased amount of traffic which passed through Bagleys Lane.

“They’ve never had budget cuts like they have at the moment – 25%. Local authorities have to find the money somewhere or cut their services and so raising charges and fines included is one area that they must be exploiting.”Professor John Raine

Hammersmith and Fulham denied claims that it was revenue raising and said it was working in accordance with traffic management legislation. They denied that they issue tickets to raise money and described the emails as “office banter” saying that they “… show enthusiastic staff, dedicated to doing a good job, chatting amongst themselves.”

Panorama: Traffic Fines – Highway Robbery? will be shown on Wednesday, 7.30pm on BBC One.

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