Trying to pull a fast one are we, sir?

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The Independent Online
Just up the road from my house there is a long steep hill down which cars quite often come far too fast, even though it is a 30mph speed limit. The parish council has once or twice asked the police to do something about it. The police have come with their speed-measuring devices and reported that the average speed of cars is nothing to worry about, and then gone away, after which the cars have gone on speeding down the hill in excess of 30mph.

Meanwhile, in a nearby village, there is another stretch of road on the edge of a 30mph limit which is spacious and tree-lined and where motorists like to accelerate just before they leave the speed limit. The police also like to set up a speed trap there from time to time. One policeman sits concealed with his speed measurer, and radios to his mate every time a car comes past doing more than 30mph, whereupon his mate steps out of the bus shelter where he is concealed and waves you imperiously to a halt to book you.

I know this happens, because it happened to me recently, and now after decades of having a clean licence I have a dirty one again. My crime? Going up to 37mph while leaving a speed limit. My mistake? Choosing to do it on the very day that a couple of local policemen decided to increase their arrest rate with some easy pickings.

Well, it's all part of the game, and I am here to testify that I am a better person for it, because being punished for these things does work. Now I am always very careful to drive along at about 25mph and never to go anywhere near 30. Only on that one stretch in that one village, it is true, but it's a start, and it is also a good idea, because those two policemen are often back there, having their little bit of fun. However, it also reinforces my feelings about police behaviour. I am more firmly convinced than ever that when the police want to find people speeding, they can, and when they would prefer to conclude that people are not speeding, they will be able to find no scrap of evidence that anyone ever exceeds the speed limit.

What I would like to be able to do is measure the speed of the cars coming down the hill to my house for myself, but I have a funny feeling that the police would not like me to do this. About a year ago there was a story in the papers about a man in London who was so fed up with cars racing past his house on a rat run that he stood outside his gate pointing his wife's hair-dryer at the traffic. The reason for this is that hair- dryers look very like speed-measuring devices. There were two immediate effects. One was that the traffic slowed right down when the drivers saw him. The other was that the police arrested him and took him to court, where he was found guilty and fined for ...

For what? That's what I can't remember. For embarrassing the police? For dishonestly handling a hair-dryer? For having an imitation offensive weapon? I wish I knew. But then the police have many talents, and one of them is being able to find a law to match any offence. I am sure it is part of the police examinations to make sure that a policeman can arrest anyone at any time if deemed necessary. "Question 14. A man walks down a street with a pineapple on his head, singing the National Anthem and wearing Union Jack shorts. He is not causing any trouble, as of yet. On how many different charges could you arrest him? You need name only 20."

Come to think of it, there is a much simpler question available. "Question 14. A man is walking down the street. How many different laws is he breaking?"

Well, if it is illegal to point a hair-dryer at traffic I am sure it is even more illegal to get a real speed-measuring device. I am not sure exactly how to go about getting one, but if there is any poverty-stricken police force out there with a second-hand one for sale, I am your man. Failing which, I could write to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, I suppose, and ask where they get their machines that measure the speed of services. I have never worked out why anyone should want to measure Greg Rusedski's service at 104.3 mph, but I am impressed at the accuracy of the reading. I am also impressed that the police have never burst into Wimbledon and arrested the man handling the service speed measurer, as they did that poor man with the hair-dryer. Hush money involved, I expect.

Oh, one other thing. If, the next time I spotted those two policemen stopping speeding drivers in the next-door village, I were to stand near the hidden one with a large sign reading "SLOW DOWN - POLICE SPEED TRAP AHEAD!", on what charge could they get me?

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