New chief to conduct speed camera review

A PRIORITY task for the new Essex Chief Constable will be to conduct a wide-ranging review of the use of speed cameras, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

By Roddy Ashworth

A PRIORITY task for the new Essex Chief Constable will be to conduct a wide-ranging review of the use of speed cameras, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

Robert Chambers, chairman of Essex Police Authority, said Roger Baker - who replaces the county's current chief David Stevens in July - will investigate whether the number of existing cameras overlooking the county's roads is necessary.

The revelation comes a week after an EADT investigation discovered that of five serious accidents used to justify deploying new speed cameras on the A12, none had been connected with motorists driving too fast.

Instead, other factors had been reported as responsible for the crashes, such as vehicle breakdown, impaired vision and the abuse of drink or drugs.

The news has fuelled suspicions among drivers and motoring organisations that the cameras are being used as moneymaking devices rather than as a tool to improve road safety.

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Mr Chambers said: "The new Chief Constable will be looking at the whole speed camera initiative and we will be making sure that what we are doing is right and proper. This will happen within the next six months.

"We shall be reviewing the whole issue - if they need to stay they will stay, and if they need to go they will go.

"We will do anything to prevent accidents. But what we certainly do not want to be doing is upsetting motorists for no good reason.

"We do not want to be sticking speed cameras there for the sake of it."

In the financial year 2003/2004, the Essex Safety Camera Partnership - run jointly by Essex Police and Essex County Council - collected £5,137,740 in fines, with 85,629 tickets paid for.

The numbers include revenue also generated by red light cameras.

In a survey run by the partnership last year in Essex, around 70% of respondents agreed that more should be done to tackle the problem of speeding drivers.

But around the same percentage agreed with the statement: "Cameras are an easy way of making money out of motorists."

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, an organisation which opposes the current scale of speed camera usage, said he fully agreed with Mr Chambers' position.

"It is absolutely splendid - it is exactly what we would want, and, and if he follows that through with action we will fully support him.

"We believe that speed cameras should only be put in exactly the same place where it can be demonstrated there have been accidents caused by somebody breaking the speed limit.

"There is no substitute for getting police on the streets looking for dangerous driving, as opposed to cameras penalising people for the sake of it when they are doing just a few miles-an-hour over the speed limit."

n Locations for mobile police cameras operated by the safety partnership this week include:

Today: Colchester and Clacton; tomorrow: South Woodham Ferrers; on Wednesday: Chelmsford, Colchester and Thorpe-le-Soken: on Thursday: Wickford; on Friday: Colchester, Braintree and Clacton and on Saturday: Tiptree, Colchester, Maldon and South Woodham Ferrers.

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