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MOTORIST SEES THE LIGHT...OF A GATSO

10-09-2006

Are motorists just cash dispensers on wheels? Andy Goff reckons so after seeing an unwelcome flasher on the A34.

I was a generally law abiding citizen until about three weeks ago.

It was 11.30 at night and I was travelling from Burntwood, Staffordshire, through Birmingham. The Aston Expressway was partially closed and the sparse traffic was being rerouted on to the A34.

This road is a wide multi-lane carriageway with a series of traffic lights as it makes its dreary way in to Birmingham near Aston University. The speed limit is 30 miles per hour. I was doing 40. Thus I was flashed by a Gatso camera. Rightly so, you may say.

I don't have a problem with being caught banged to rights. Had I been nabbed by a plod I would have said, "It's a fair cop, guv. I'll come quietly. Just don't hit me again”. But I wasn't. I was photographed from afar by a police substitute that makes money instead of costing it.

That is the essence of my gripe. The facts were that is was a quiet road; there were few cars around, it was late in the evening. Travelling at 40 wasn't unreasonable. It really did suit the conditions at the time. I was totally sober but I make a mistake. I didn't slow down when I saw the back of the camera, only to accelerate away after I had exited the ‘danger' area. How stupid was that? Between cameras I could have been travelling at 90 miles per hour but, no, I was maintaining a steady 40. No one was at risk.

A week later a form arrives at home asking my wife (the car is in her name) to say who was driving. I filled in the form thus saving her the difficulty of shopping me (I'm sure there is a rule in law that says a spouse can't be called on to give evidence against the other half) and admitted it was me behind the wheel.

A week after that I receive a conditional offer from West Midlands Police that if I pleaded guilty and coughed up £60 that would be the end of the matter. Oh! Plus I get 3 points on my otherwise unblemished licence and a higher cost on my car insurance when it comes up for renewal. So, thrice punished for a single demeanour.

This isn't law enforcement, it's policing by robots.

Had there been a bobby about instead of a one- legged cash machine, he or she probably would have thought "I can't see a problem here” and let the misdemeanour go. Had I been stopped I could at least have been in a position where two people discussed the matter. I might still have been prosecuted but I wouldn't have felt I was being done mechanically. Maybe my powers of persuasion could have helped. I'm a reasonable bloke and I think most policemen and women are too. But that avenue was closed by photographic evidence and a process of law enforcement.

Cameras don't catch drink drivers, they don't catch illegal immigrants, they don't catch paedophiles and they sure as hell don't catch the nutters that hurtle past my daughter's school - narrow road, parked cars and lots of children around. Isee them but the police don't and, as there are no cameras or street Bobbies, they get away with it.

There should be variable speed limits in areas where cameras are used. It's hard to imagine how money is made by these devices when traffic is at its peak, which I'll bet is travelling at an average of around 10-15 miles per hour. Daytime, maybe, they generate some income but I reckon most of it comes when the roads are empty, and at their safest.

For the Government to claim it is saving lives is rubbish. Cameras are there to make money and reduce the number of police on the beat.

I've paid the fine, by credit card, so Barclaycard also benefits from ‘crime', and I will shortly have my formerly clean licence back with three points on.

I sympathise with Craig Moore who was recently jailed for destroying a speed camera. He's in jail and lost his job.

Now, how much does it cost to keep a bloke in jail?

How much does it cost us tax payers to process the prosecutions?

Where does the money go that's raised?

To pay compensation to victims of bad driving, towards the NHS cost of treating road traffic victims?

I suspect it goes in to Treasury coffers to buy arms for wars.

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