Friday, November 24, 2006

One law for them and another for the rest of us

A policeman who was cleared of speeding on his way to pick up a Chinese takeaway still faces disciplinary action, his chief constable has said. Pc Stephen Akrill was caught by a speed camera in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, driving a police Land Rover at 48mph in a 40mph zone.

Magistrates let him off after he said he had been on his way to an accident. South Yorkshire's chief constable said it was "very regrettable" he had apparently disregarded a speed camera.

Pc Akrill told Rotherham Magistrates' Court on Wednesday how he decided to help after receiving reports of a serious road accident on the evening of 13 February this year.
But when he heard other units had responded he aborted his journey and went to the takeaway instead.

However, the court heard he had not been called to respond to the crash, did not have sirens or blue lights on and was not taking the quickest route to the scene.

He was spotted by a motorist triggering a speed camera and then entering the Wickersley Cantonese takeaway, emerging minutes later with several bags of food.

Magistrates were told the takeaway had been ordered in advance.

Pc Akrill, 41, admitted he had been "foolish" in not reporting to his bosses, as he should have done, that he had triggered the speed camera in Wickersley.

But the South Yorkshire officer denied speeding in his marked police Land Rover and was cleared after a day-long trial.

Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes said on Friday: "This incident has obviously raised public concern and it is very regrettable that an officer should apparently have disregarded a speed camera under these circumstances.

"The decision of the court in the face of the evidence presented to them is entirely a matter for them, but South Yorkshire Police will always seek to prosecute police drivers where evidence suggests they have failed to comply with the law which covers their use of police vehicles. In this case, the evidence was independently reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service and disciplinary enquiries will continue."

Paul Smith, founder of the anti-camera group Safe Speed, said: "The hypocrisy is absolutely breathtaking.

"It's clearly one law for them and another for the rest of us. Cases like this do immeasurable damage to the police-public relationship."

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