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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Police target driving 'loopholes'
Police with speed gun
Speeding motorists could find it harder to be cleared
Reckless drivers who use legal loopholes to avoid conviction are being targeted in a new police initiative.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is training police and CPS lawyers to make stronger cases.

Police are frustrated that lawyers well versed in motoring laws are using small print to win acquittals for those charged with reckless or drink-driving.

Acpo is also introducing a team made up of a lawyer and a former police officer to help prosecute speed camera cases.

The association hopes motorists will avoid contesting their speeding charge because if they lose, their costs will include up to 4,000 for the cost of the team.

And police say they will be keeping a close eye on drivers who they think have been wrongly acquitted of crimes.

There have been a number of cases where people feel that justice has not been done
Meredydd Hughes
South Yorkshire Police

Meredydd Hughes, the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, said officers were becoming increasingly frustrated with lawyers who used legal small print to help win acquittals for clients.

He said it was the police's responsibility to prosecute offences correctly.

But he said: "There have been a number of cases where people feel that justice has not been done, both in the drink-driving world and in other cases where people have evaded the law having driven cars recklessly and at very high speeds.

Celebrity acquittals

"I think my colleagues in the roads policing groups will share my anger when people are unjustly acquitted and I'm sure they'll be looking for those drivers.

"And if they haven't mended their ways we have an attitude in the police service that we'll see them again sometime."

Jane Thomson and her family were involved in a head-on collision with a lorry which left her husband badly injured.

Another car driver was arrested for drink driving but procedural errors by police meant he was not prosecuted.

She told BBC News: "Matt had a broken neck in five places. He's got memory loss now, his personality's changed and, also, our 18-month-old baby had actually gone unconscious and stopped breathing."

She told Radio 4's Today programme: "The police should be doing their job properly and they need further training to make sure this doesn't happen."

'No justice'

Lawyer Nick Freeman, dubbed "Mr Loophole" owing to his talent for finding unusual technical defences, told BBC News it was "disgraceful" that culprits could escape punishment on minor technicalities.

"For certain people who may have been involved in a serious road traffic accident, the person who has caused that accident is arrested, he's processed by the police, the police make a mistake, get it wrong and that person walks away.

The chief constable [Meredydd Hughes] seems to be being a bit vague as to exactly what he's saying in these cases
James Welch, Liberty

"From a moral standpoint, there's absolutely no justice in that situation."

Mr Freeman says he abhors drink drivers but that his job is still to defend his clients.

Campaign group Liberty raised concerns that police may unlawfully target individuals who they believe have been unfairly acquitted of motoring offences.

There have been some high-profile examples of people avoiding punishment for driving offences, including cases where couples have argued that they could not remember who had been driving at the time.

Liberty spokesman James Welch told BBC News: "If [Mr Hughes] is suggesting that police officers are going to target people they consider have been unjustly acquitted - meaning they are going to stop them on a number of occasions when they don't have a good reason - then that should be wrong in principle and probably is almost certainly illegal as well."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Specialist lawyer says current situation is 'disgraceful'



SEE ALSO
Driving loopholes police pledge
20 Dec 05 |  Manchester
Move to reinstate speed cameras
15 Aug 06 |  London

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