January 18, 2008
Ridiculous editorial d'jour
Not many bother to read the SCMP's editorials and with good reason. Today's one on speed guns has a couple of gems:
Speeding is not the most serious traffic offence. But as it puts lives at risk, police have to do their utmost to prevent it.Can the SCMP list for us the seriousness of traffic offences in order? I assume jaywalking is nearer the bottom, driving fast into a crowd near the top, but the order in the middle is vague. Is speeding better or worse than not wearing seat belts? Or broken headlights?
If this means using the latest technology available, so be it. Technology itself cannot prevent reckless driving on our roads, though.Speed guns don't save people, people do. Nice of the SCMP to concede that using "latest" technology (Wikipedia tells me it was first used in Chicago in 1954, which admittedly is several hundred years after the Gutenberg press)..
Traffic officers have to know how to properly set up and use the equipment that they have been given and to carry out their duties with the utmost care and accuracy.Dare I say it: point and shoot. Maybe that's confusing.
The case of tycoon Peter Lam Kin-ngok shows why. Mr Lam had originally been charged with driving at 114km/h in a 50km/h zone. But the prosecution amended the charge and accepted his plea of guilty to driving at 79km/h after it emerged that a police officer had failed to follow the correct procedures when using a laser gun to assess the motorist's speed. Mr Lam was fined HK$450.He was only 29km/h over the limt rather than 64...that's much better. But remember that speeding isn't the worst traffic offence.
Although police are performing a valuable community service in making sure that the road rules are obeyed, they can also do a disservice if speeds are not accurately established and motorists wrongly punished. Mr Lam could have lost his licence if he had not contested the reading. Whereas the majority of motorists would have accepted their fate, he fought the matter in court, hired a senior counsel and had an expert on speed laser equipment flown in from Britain.He had the money to get off but lots of people can't...and if Mr Lam had lost he could have hired a driver...but
Mr Lam's case was similar to dozens of others in Britain in recent years - where more stringent conditions are attached to the use of laser guns. The expert, Michael Clark, pointed out that laser guns can easily give incorrect readings if not used carefully. As we report today, an academic who checks Hong Kong police speed equipment, has disputed the degree of error in readings. Nonetheless, to prevent further challenges to claimed speeding violations, the police should thoroughly examine training methods and make changes where necessary.The bigger scandal is that it took a rich man to fly in the experts to expose this...and while I agree that double checking is a good idea for some things to police do, does that also mean police should be trained to fire twice as many times with their other guns, in the interests of the police - and in the interests of justice?
For this the SCMP want to charge you money.posted by Simon on 01.18.08 at 04:36 PM in the SCMP category.
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