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Midland: Campaigners want end to speeding fine lottery.

Byline: By Campbell Docherty Transport Correspondent

Drivers caught by speed cameras in Birmingham are nearly half as likely to be fined than those in neighbouring Midland counties, Government figures have revealed.

Motoring campaigners are calling for an end to the "speed camera lottery" across the UK after the financial accounts of 35 camera safety partnerships, published on the Department for Transport (DfT) website, show speeding drivers are far more likely to be prosecuted in some areas than others.

The West Midlands Casualty Reduction Partnership converted just 59 per cent of the Notices of Intended Prosecution it issued in the 2004/05 financial year to actual fines.

However, neighbouring West Mercia - which covers Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire - converted 100 per cent in the same period.

The DfT said several factors affected the figures, including the fact that emergency vehicles sped past cameras and some police forces offered speed awareness courses instead of fines.

A spokesman for the RAC said: "You could be driving through one county where prosecution rates are high, but in another the message could be very different."

Road safety pressure group Brake, which backs the use of cameras, said the problem needed investigating.

"It's a little worrying that the figures are so low in some areas," a Brake spokeswoman said. "There needs to be a reasonable consistency for drivers across the country.

"People who speed need to know that there's a reasonable chance that they can be caught and, if they are caught, they are going to be prosecuted for it."

Alongside West Mercia, the camera safety partnerships with the best record were West Yorkshire, Bedfordshire and Luton, Cheshire, Hertfordshire, Humberside and Kent.

They all had a 100 per cent conversion rates.

Forces with a low record of prosecution apart from West Midlands included Avon, Somerset and Gloucestershire (57 per cent) and Greater Manchester (53 per cent).

In London, the chance of being fined after receiving a notice of intended prosecution was just 46 per cent.

The RAC admitted figures were affected by issues such as speeding emergency vehicles and forces offering speed awareness courses instead of points on a licence. A DfT spokeswoman said the statistics showed a "partial picture".

"A whole range of factors need to be considered when interpreting the data, such as whether the local partnership offers speed awareness courses instead of fines or whether the case has gone to court.

An independent four-year study found that cameras were "highly effective" in reducing speeding, accidents and casualties, she said.

The number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit fell by 70 per cent at fixed camera sites and there was a 42 per cent fall in the number of people killed and seriously injured, she said.

Conservative transport spokesman Chris Grayling said there needed to be a "constant policy that people understand and respect". Speeding emergency vehicles did account for some differences, but not 40 per cent.

"If you accept, as we do, that speed cameras play a role in road safety but if you also believe that they have been used as a stealth tax in some areas, then the problem is that things like this tend to undermine the credibility of the whole speed system."

Recent figures showed wide variation in the numbers of police officers prosecuted after being caught by speed cameras.

Critics said the results suggested some forces were over-using the exemption powers and they believed some police officers thought they had "carte blanche" to break the speed limit.

campbell_docherty@mrn.co.uk
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 2, 2006
Words:583
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