HC Deb 09 November 1936 vol 317 cc508-9
76. Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the conviction of Major Oliver Stewart for exceeding the speed limit in a built-up area by the Kingston magistrates on 8th October, and to the quashing of the conviction with costs against the police by the appeals committee of the Surrey Quarter Sessions on 23rd October; and whether he is satisfied with police methods of estimating the speeds of motor vehicles?


The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis informs me that the method of enforcing the speed limit in built-up areas which is usually employed and was employed in this case is for the traffic patrols to follow for a reasonable distance the vehicle which they suspect of exceeding the limit, and to time it by means of the speedometer in the police car. In the instructions issued to police, special stress is laid on the necessity for keeping as far as possible at an even distance behind the vehicle which is being followed. By means of tests carried out daily over measured distances, everything possible is done to ensure the accuracy of the speedometers in the police cars, and the police are carefully instructed in their duties. It is far the courts to decide in the light of the evidence whether an offence has been committed, and the result of this case does not, in the view of my right hon. Friend, afford any ground for ceasing to employ this method.


Is my hon. Friend aware that considerable alarm is felt about the number of cases in which the sole evidence for the prosecution is supplied by police officers, in view of the fact that in certain cases where rebutting evidence happens to be available the evidence of the police is not accepted by the court?


It is, of course, open to a person who is charged to rebut the police evidence when the case comes before the court, and if a motorist is aggrieved by the court's decision he has a right of appeal to Quarter Sessions, and I should have thought the value of that right was exemplified in the present case.


Having regard to the importance of the police evidence being always reliable, will the hon. Member cause a formal inquiry to be made by the Home Office into the case, which is causing really great concern to a large number of independent persons?


Are there any means of determining the distance between the car pursuing and the car pursued? That seems to have been a point in the evidence. Can the police say exactly what is the distance between two cars?