Oral Answers to Questions — Mobile Police.

– in the House of Commons on 10th December 1931.

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Photo of Mr William McKeag Mr William McKeag , City of Durham

27.

asked the Home Secretary what proportion of the eases brought before the courts as a result of the activities of the mobile police constitute criminal offences, apart from the provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, relating to purely technical offences?

Photo of Mr Herbert Samuel Mr Herbert Samuel , Darwen

I could not, without special inquiry, give the desired particulars as to cases brought into Court, and I am in some doubt as to the dis- tinction drawn in the question between criminal and technical offences. I find, however, that of the 15,677 traffic cases reported by the Metropolitan Police motor patrols in the period of 10 months since the system was instituted, to the 31st October last, 688 were in respect of indictable offences, mainly dangerous driving or driving when under the influence of drink, and, in addition, 208 arrests for other criminal offences were made. I regret that corresponding figures for other forces are not at present available.

Photo of Mr William McKeag Mr William McKeag , City of Durham

Is it the practice of the authorities to regard with favour the persistent harassing of the general motoring public in connection with purely technical offences as distinguished from serious breaches of the law?

Photo of Mr Herbert Samuel Mr Herbert Samuel , Darwen

The law has to be enforced even in the case of offences of a minor character.

Photo of Mr William McKeag Mr William McKeag , City of Durham

28.

asked the Home Secretary if he can give any information as to the circumstances in which two mobile police officers patrolling the road in a police car recently received fatal injuries while endeavouring to overtake a motorist?

Photo of Mr Herbert Samuel Mr Herbert Samuel , Darwen

As the answer is necessarily long, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr William McKeag Mr William McKeag , City of Durham

Is it the fact that, quite apart from the loss of the two officers concerned, the State will be called upon to pay a considerable sum of money as compensation to the dependants of these two officers and for damage to the motor cars involved; and is it considered that that total cost is a proper price to pay for these services?

Following is the answer:

At 7.55 p.m. on 28th November last, the constables in the combination were patrolling at Southend Road, Beckenham, and collided with a private car which was travelling in the opposite direction. The two officers sustained fatal injuries.

The officers made no statement before death, but evidence at the inquest on 2nd December shows that, shortly before the occurrence, the officers had seen a motor car coming in the opposite direction with defective lights and they turned to follow this car which was travelling at an estimated speed of 40 to 50 miles an hour.

It appears that in pursuit of the car the police constable driving the combination drew on the the crown of the road to pass some other vehicle or vehicles, and the coroner, in stating that the impact may have taken place over the crown of the road on the offside, added that to his mind there was a serious error of judgment.

The jury found that the driver of the combination met his death by misadventure and the constable in the sidecar by accidental causes.

The cause of the accident was not definitely determined, but the driver of the car was exonerated from blame.

Photo of Mr William McKeag Mr William McKeag , City of Durham

29.

asked the Home Secretary how many accidents have occurred in which members of the mobile police have been involved; how many lives have been lost in such accidents; and how the percentage of such accidents compares with the percentage in the case of the general motoring public?

Photo of Mr Herbert Samuel Mr Herbert Samuel , Darwen

The Metropolitan Police motor patrols employ 115 vehicles, and, in the period of nearly a year for which the system has been in operation, there have been 270 accidents. Most of these, however, were quite trivial, and very few involved any personal injury. One fatal accident has occurred in which two persons, both motor patrol men, were killed. I regret that I am not in a position to give corresponding figures relating to motor patrols in other forces, or to furnish any reply to the last part of the question.

Photo of Mr William McKeag Mr William McKeag , City of Durham

Is not the total cost of this mobile police force too high a price to pay for the detection of minor and trivial offences?

Photo of Mr Herbert Samuel Mr Herbert Samuel , Darwen

No, Sir. The total cost is not large in comparison with the services that are performed, and I think that the whole House would desire that every effort should be made by the police to reduce the very large number of accidents that take place in London.