HC Deb 05 November 1936 vol 317 cc221-3
19. Captain STRICKLAND

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the case tried at Warwick police court on 15th August, 1936, against the driver of a mail van for exceeding the speed limit and to the action of the Warwickshire constabulary in stopping the van by means of plainclothes officers displaying a stop police notice on the blind of their car; and whether, as the magistrates unanimously regarded this as a grave indiscretion and in view of the protest made on behalf of the Postmaster-General against the method employed, he proposes to take any action to call the attention of all police authorities to the danger of any such method of attempting to stop motor vehicles in general?


I have obtained from the Chief Constable of Warwickshire a report on this matter, from which I gather that it was not denied in court that the mail van was being driven at a speed exceeding 30 miles per hour, that is, at a speed in excess of that prescribed by Parliament for certain classes of goods vehicles, including mail vans, in the interests of the general safety of road users. It is within the discretion of chief officers of police, who are responsible for enforcing the law, to decide whether or not to use police in plain clothes for the purpose of detecting road traffic offences. It is not an offence for a driver to fail to stop on the signal of a constable if he is not in uniform, but, if he does stop, it is the duty of the constable at once to produce his warrant card and to reveal his identity. This was done by the constable on this occasion. My right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General has informed my right hon. Friend that he does not, and will not, condone breaches of the law by Post Office servants, neither does he claim exceptional treatment for them. There is no evidence of ill-disposed persons using police signs or pretending to be police in order to stop vehicles on the road for improper or criminal purposes, and, in the absence of any evidence of abuses of this kind, my right hon. Friend regrets that he cannot see his way to interfere with the discretion of chief officers of police or to issue any advice to them on the lines suggested in the last part of the question.


May I ask whether due consideration has been given to the loss of authority on the part of the police in attempting to stop vehicles by a method under which the person need not stop, and whether it is necessary for some highway robbery to take place before the Home Office takes steps to stop this dangerous practice?


It is not an offence for a person not to stop if asked to do so by the police in plain clothes, but it must be remembered that if a person does not stop he may be placed at the inconvenience of being later on charged with an offence of which he was not aware at the time he committed it.