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Sunday, November 22, 1998 Published at 15:38 GMT


Speed cameras give police a headache

Speed cameras have become a common sight on Britain's roads

Thousands of motorists are getting away with speeding because the police do not have the money to take them all to court.

Sally Mountjoy reports on the speed cameras which are just too good
The Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Steve Pilkington, says speed cameras are so effective that if his force prosecuted everybody they caught he would have to take officers off the beat.

Last year Avon and Somerset's cameras detected 399,000 speeding offences but only 12,000 were prosecuted.

[ image: Mr Pilkington says prosecutions are costly]
Mr Pilkington says prosecutions are costly
The Association of Chief Police Officers has called on the government to change the law to allow police forces to recover costs from defendants as in other criminal cases.

Mr Pilkington says: "We are looking to recover costs of £20 for each prosecution.

'Where is the money going to come from?'

"At the moment we recover nothing so I have to find that money from other areas of the budget.

"If we are talking about 10,000 extra prosecutions a year I could be talking about taking three or four policemen off the street."

[ image: Speed is a factor in a third of accidents]
Speed is a factor in a third of accidents
At present local authorities pay for the cost of installing and maintaining speed cameras but the money from speeding fines goes straight to the Treasury.

The Liberal Democrats say the money should go back to local authorities to pay for more prosecutions and more police officers on the beat.

[ image: Patrick Nicholls:
Patrick Nicholls: "This would be unethical"
But Conservative MP Patrick Nicholls says the proposals would be unethical.

"You might imagine at the end of the year if you wanted to catch more burglars and were a bit short of money there would be a temptation to up your effort on motorists.

"Are they going to do a calculation of how many motorists to the burglar? I think it would bring the police into disrepute."

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