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Sharp rise in on-spot fines

PUBLISHED: 10:18 06 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:20 03 July 2010

THOUSANDS more Norfolk motorists were punished for traffic offences over the last year as police doubled the number of on-the-spot fines issued as part of a tough new approach to improving road safety.

THOUSANDS more Norfolk motorists were punished for traffic offences over the last year as police doubled the number of on-the-spot fines issued as part of a tough new approach to improving road safety.

The dramatic rise in fixed penalty notices issued on the county's roads - 8,200 in the last year compared to 4,200 during the previous 12 months - came after The Mercury's sister paper the Eastern Daily Press revealed controversial plans to issue officers with strict quotas dictating the number of fixed penalty tickets they should issue.

On Friday a spokesman said that although these plans had been dropped, there had been a shake-up which had encouraged traffic officers to be “more proactive”.

The figures, released following a Freedom of Information request, coincide with signs of initial success with the number of fatalities and casualties dropping sharply.

Chief Supt Julian Blazeby said: “No targets were set for traffic officers over the last year. The significant increase in the number of fixed penalty tickets is attributable to the team being more proactive in addressing the irresponsible actions of motorists.

“Over the past 12 months the public have been telling our neighbourhood policing teams that speeding and anti-social behaviour involving motor vehicles are issues for them; we have listened and addressed those issues and concerns.”

He added that fixed penalty notices could help change driver behaviour without time-consuming court prosecutions.

“Roads policing officers issue fixed penalty notices for offences as they happen, rather than offenders going through the courts system,” Mr Blazeby said.

“The tickets are issued for offences such as using mobile phones while driving, driving without insurance or without an MOT certificate and for not using seatbelts.”

Last year 385 people were killed or injured, compared to the previous year's figure of 473.

The force had feared that, although the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads had been falling for a number of years, this was due more to solutions like speed cameras than the role of police.

Mr Blazeby said: “I firmly believe the positive action taken by the roads policing team has significantly contributed to the reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured on Norfolk's roads in the past year.”

The original plan to order road policing units to meet ticket targets had provoked an outcry, with some officers saying the number-crunching would undermine their relationship with the public and remove discretion.

Chief constable Ian McPherson made it clear that, although targets would not be issued to individual officers, various teams would be asked to improve their performance.

At the time a spokesman said senior officers had “questioned current performance” and were putting in place action plans to improve road safety. This would include using intelligence to influence patrol areas and “the setting of performance targets for teams to improve driver standards”.

In the past Norfolk police have been criticised for not enforcing traffic laws rigorously. When the ban on drivers using mobile phones was introduced the force issued just 904 fines during the first year, compared with between 1,300 and 1,700 in neighbouring counties.

Although these figures have since improved, the force was keen to do more to catch those flouting the law.

Insp Dave Ball, from road policing, said: “Our priority is the safety of motorists on our roads and fixed penalty notices are a tool for officers to address the irresponsible actions of motorists in Norfolk.

“We have taken action to address the issues and concerns to improve the quality of life in our neighbourhoods.”

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