Why magistrates' slur on police in injudicious

Why magistrates' slur on police in injudicious

The Magistrates Association is being alarmingly injudicious over its latest pronouncement on the topic of fixed penalties.

The Chairman of its Road Traffic Committee, Chris Hunt Cooke, has been quoted as saying that if officers are given the power to impose a fixed penalty for careless driving - as the Government is proposing - they will misuse it, adding: "That is a certainty."

So! The Magistrates' lofty verdict is "guilty" without the need for any evidence which - because the police do not currently have this power - there is necessarily not a scrap.

Mr Hunt Cooke reportedly went on to claim that many officers would opt for issuing a fixed penalty for careless driving, rather than pursue a more serious charge, out of laziness.

This is a gross slur, which amounts to an accusation of dereliction of duty.

Officers will follow whatever guidelines or orders they are given. If these are in any way inadequate, the problem should be addressed to whoever has issued them.

The Police Federation has long been campaigning to halt the steady decline in the number of specialist traffic officers in England and Wales.

Its words have fallen on deaf ears, including those of the magistrates who sit on police authorities.

Now that Mr Hunt Cooke's concerns about roads policing have come to the fore, perhaps he might like to take the opportunity to give those ladies and gentlemen some guidance on this topic.

Incidentally, the Police Federation has no more enthusiasm for fixed penalties than does the Magistrates Association. We believe they are more appropriate to the world of Judge Dredd than to real-life criminal justice.