BBC TwoNewsnight
Page last updated at 00:40 GMT, Thursday, 6 December 2007

Speeding police 'not prosecuted'

By Martin Shankleman
BBC News

A South Yorkshire police officer caught speeding
Most of the officers caught were in the Doncaster and Rotherham areas

Roadside camera photographs of South Yorkshire Police officers caught speeding, but who later had their cases dropped, have been obtained by the BBC.

The pictures were released after South Yorkshire's chief constable, Meredydd Hughes, was banned from driving for speeding at 90mph in a 60mph zone.

Those in cars caught on camera were all on duty but none was prosecuted after refusing to say who was at the wheel.

The force said cases were not pursued due to drivers not being identified.

Public interest

The pictures, obtained by BBC Newsnight under the Freedom of Information Act, all showed officers speeding - mostly in the Rotherham and Doncaster areas.

They were released following the intervention of the Information Commissioner, who rejected the force's reason for non-release.

The force had claimed that releasing the images was not in the public interest.

A South Yorkshire police officer caught speeding
Officers were caught speeding while on duty

In one case it claimed that if the occupants of a speeding police van were identified because of publication, there was a "risk that those individuals will be vilified and as a consequence their mental or physical health will suffer".

But the commissioner rejected that argument, saying the information had been "inappropriately withheld" and that it was in the public interest for the material to be disclosed.

Overall, the BBC investigation uncovered 26 cases between 2003 and 2006, where South Yorkshire police officers caught speeding on duty failed to admit they were driving and cases were dropped.

'Due diligence'

A spokesman for South Yorkshire police said the cases could not go ahead because they had used "due diligence" in trying to identify the drivers and, because they could not be identified, a prosecution would fail.

A South Yorkshire police officer caught speeding
The force said releasing the pictures was not in the public interest

He added that procedures had now been reformed and earlier this year the chief constable had taken himself to court for failing to identify the driver of a speeding police car.

Mr Hughes, 49, a former chair of roads policing at the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), apologised after being caught on camera doing 90mph in a 60mph zone on the A5 at Chirk near Wrexham in May.

He stood down from his role at Acpo after he was summonsed for the offence, which happened when he was on holiday.

He was disqualified for 42 days and fined £350 by Wrexham magistrates.



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