20mph zones? We can’t enforce them
Police boss admits signs are often just ‘advisory’
THE use of 20mph speed zones in built-up areas has been thrown into chaos after a police chief admitted many can’t be enforced.
Giles Orpen-Smellie said the signs that have sprung up across the UK are ‘usually advisory’, meaning motorists who ignore them can’t be taken to court.
The Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner told a public meeting: ‘It’s extremely difficult for police to prosecute... if it goes in front of magistrates they will throw it out.’
The response to a question at a Norfolk
County Council meeting triggered consternation among road safety organisations.
Liam Calvert, of charity Living Streets, said he was ‘amazed’ at the comment, adding: ‘I will be very keen to hear about the advice he has received from officers on the issue.’
And Rod King, director of campaign group 20’s Plenty For Us, dismissed the Tory commissioner’s claim as ‘absolute nonsense’.
But Norfolk Constabulary revealed the force doesn’t issue tickets for driving at up to 30mph in 20mph areas. A spokesman said: ‘A zone can be introduced by a local authority without any permissions being sought. However, this can create a significant issue for enforcement. If a zone is introduced without a traffic order [a legal document issued by the relevant highways authority] then the speed limit applicable will be 30mph.’
They said police action ‘may be appropriate if there is clear evidence of significant non-compliance or injury collision’, with the force issuing 38 tickets for motorists speeding in a 20mph limit since January 1, 2022.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council said ‘enforcement is a matter for individual forces’. Research has shown just one in 40 pedestrians die when hit by a car going at 20mph, compared to one in five at 30mph. However a four-year study commissioned by the Government found that the zones, introduced in 1990, had failed to make roads any safer.
Prominent motoring legislation solicitor Nick Freeman –
‘Magistrates will throw it out’
also known as Mr Loophole – warned that a ‘ lottery’ on 20mph speed limits exists across the country. He said the zones must be formally created by a traffic order issued by the local authority and have the correct signage.
‘If either is missing it is civil, not criminal,’ he said. ‘So you won’t get penalty points but you could get a fixed penalty from the council.’