Friday, July 18, 2014

Où Sont Les Flics D'Antan?

As one does. I devoted the occasional; lazy hour, glass in hand, during my recent holiday, to thinking about small issues, and one of the first to come to mind was that we had driven from the Thames Valley to a few km west of Quimper. without seeing a single traffic cop, English or French, in car or on bike.
The French seem to have followed the English lead in pretty much doing away with manned policing. When I first became a JP we dedicated one courtroom four days a week to traffic matters; today many of us do not see a traffic case in six months. The cost-driven move to a fixed-penalty regime means that many police officers make day to day judicial decisions.


26 comments:

  1. I had the exact opposite experience last month in France; it was Le Mans 24 Hours week, and every autoroute bridge had flics hiding behind them with speed guns, radioing ahead to the next peage station to catch Les Rosbouefs. At least four of my friends had their pockets felt for exceeding the 130 km/h limit, fortunately not by a lot or their cars would have been confiscated for several days.

    Re traffic courts back home, here in Thames Valley there is still plenty of traffic business, but non-penalty (or non-payment) cases are now centralised in Oxford, so unless there is a trial involved it doesn't filter down to the other magistrate courts in Berks, Bucks and Oxon. So like you we are gradually losing the feel for dealing with traffic, another erosion of our business.

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  2. Better than a day of guilty-by-post letters, which you still get dealing with people too dozy to pay the fixed penalty on time. This can be watching paint dry territory unless you have a convivial bench, in which case it is just dull. The only upside is that many of the covering letters feature improbable mitigating circumstances to brighten the day

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  3. Italian Lawyer19 July 2014 at 11:30

    We have a mainly fixed penalty system too, but we're allowed to demand judicial review of police decisions. As a result, our JPs are flooded with these cases, much to the chagrin of the Primo Presidente of the Corte di Cassazione. (Not that he cares overmuch about JPs, only because JP's decisions in these matters can be, and often are, appealed to the C.di C.)

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    1. Anyone in England & Wales jurisdiction can opt to go to court too if they disagree with their fixed penalty notice.

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    2. Having just successfully appealed against over €900 of fines in Italy (regarding use of a UK blue badge), I was glad to have found out that what Italian Lawyer calls judicial review is possible, especially as the notice of payment I received explicitly stated that no appeal was allowed and payment had to be made within 5 days.

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    3. Italian Lawyer28 July 2014 at 17:20

      uh? Might something have been lost in translation? The 5 days no appeal rule is the condition for a substantial reduction of the fine. But if you don't want a reduction and prefer to appeal, you can always do so, as you've seen for yourself.

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    4. Not in this case. It was acknowledged that an earlier, interim, stage involving the issues of a notice of an alleged offence (equivalent to the notice of intended persecution in the UK) had been mistakenly omitted, and I had been sent a final demand for payment.

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  4. They are all following the Tour de France. Saw them in London !

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  5. Traffic cops are an endangered species. Far too much reliance on GATSO cameras which causes problems as criminals rarely register their cars.
    Jaded

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  6. OT, have you seen this one?
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10973861/Judge-and-breathtakingly-arrogant-barrister-in-slanging-match-during-trial.html
    John Gibson

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    1. Interesting. Part way down the article is this sentence:

      'When Mr West refused to give way, the judge barked at him to sit down six times, banging his gavel on the bench as he did so.'

      Surely it's been mentioned here often British judges don't use gavels.

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    2. It's the silly season, when newsrooms send the pros on holiday and let the interns and the newbies have a go.

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    3. Slightly OT but on the subject of gavels, apparently we are about to produce our version of Judge Judy with a (I hope) retired judge/barrister in charge who ...yes you guessed it...happily bangs away with a gavel. And let's not even mention (oh OK I will) that stunning Judge John Deed episode when our learned judge likewise had gavel in paw on the bench. Bah indeed!!!

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    4. Also OT, you may enjoy this story. I guess things are a little less formal across the pond...

      http://www.legalcheek.com/2014/06/lets-go-out-back-judge-tells-lawyer-before-allegedly-punching-him/

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  7. I had a slightly unusual (but very effective) experience on a recent trip through France.

    It's certainly true that there are many fewer traffic police to be seen on the roads, as indeed in the UK, but there are many more (often very well hidden) fixed and mobile cameras than ever there used to be, and French drivers are as a result much more careful about not exceeding the limits than in days gone by.

    However, after allowing myself to get rather carried away by the excitement of having made it to view the magnificent viaduc de Millau, I was startled on the return journey to see suddenly appear on the gantry in front of me a message (in English to boot) saying "Please slow down xxxx xxx!" where xxxx xxx was my UK number plate. I did just as I was asked... PDQ!

    P.S. Well done, BS, for having made such good progress with your French. It shows that even old dogs can learn new tricks. Accent in the right place, and the apostrophe too. Just a couple of very minor problems remain. Firstly, the continuing conundrum of capitalisation, where French usage varies greatly from English (and indeed even from one French authority to another!).

    Most French writers, however, would not have capitalised anything other than the first word of your title.

    Secondly (a tiny quibble this), all two or more part punctuation marks (including : ; « » ! and ?) in French require a space both before and after, (even within brackets).

    This would give « Où sont les flics d'antan ? »

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    1. Merci monsieur. Is it Pedant or Pédant, now?

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    2. And une autre chose.......

      Many towns now impose a 30 kph limit, often coupled with speed sensors that flash up your speed almost instantly. Charmingly, over the top gets a sad face or a red flashing reminder , but good boys and girls get a smiley face. It is curiously pleasing to see one of these as a guest in their country.

      Like Mr. H (oops, Anon) I too have seen my registration displayed on an autoroute gantry followed by 'trop vite, ralentissez' so I did.

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    3. Thought that this site was to do with british jurisprudence. Those seeking the current vagaries of french punctuation ought to devise a blog for themselves.

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    4. Italian Lawyer23 July 2014 at 18:35

      The current vagaries of french punctuation...Now, why does the phrase make me think of fog in the Channel, I wonder. Anyway,if the suggestion was adhered to, I fear it would make two rather dull blogs in one fell swoop. BS's art to let british jurisprudence mix with odds and ends is a charming asset of this one.

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    5. Grazie! That's a Peroni that I owe you next time you are in West London!

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    6. Mr B does indeed artfully mix matters of British jurisprudence with all sorts of other odds and ends, as is true of both life and the law. It is only the monomaniacal who seem unable to cope with more than one concept at a time. I'd happily stand Italian Lawyer a Peroni or even a pint of real ale in recognition of the many and varied odds and ends he has added to discussions on these pages, and would be delighted if Mr B could join us.

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  8. "When Mr West refused to give way, the judge barked at him to sit down six times, banging his gavel on the bench as he did so. "

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  9. Far more intimidating than the (non-existent) gavel is the irritated tap of the judicial pencil on the bench. Any advocate will quake at the sound of that.

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    1. Funny place, the Crown Court. When I sit there I am always struck by the fact that my place sports a pile of unlined paper, and an old style HB pencil. Of course I always have my trusty (filched) ballpoint with me, but I cannot for the life of me write straight on plain paper

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  10. The police have been making judgments since their inception. The use of discretion is still encouraged and it is only a percentage who do make their way to the courts

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