#Stephen’sNiche: Feetham’s ‘ring of steel’ and speed cameras (part 2)

So, the leader of the opposition considers that the media in Gibraltar are biased towards the government?

Okay those weren’t Daniel Feetham’s precise words, but when the presenter of GBC’s “The Opposition, Your Questions” programme asked him this he didn’t deny it. Mr Feetham said the media does not ask the government the difficult questions it should. The media, together with ‘some’ unions and grateful individuals have apparently formed ‘a ring of steel’ around the government and it’s all going to lead to a one-party state, no less.

Rather fanciful in my view, but my response is that Mr Feetham and the GSD have the power to prevent that dreaded outcome simply by continuing to stand for election.

As to the accusation of bias, well it’s tiresome as well as plain wrong. As a broadcast journalist I heard it from the mouths of politicians of all stripes for over 30 years, and you can’t, by definition, be biased in favour of everyone!

I think a clue to what may really be bothering the opposition leader came later in the aforementioned programme. “Fabian is obviously the consummate media operator” he said, referring to Chief Minister Fabian Picardo. “The master of one-liners” who “works the media very, very well.”

He may reflect that the most effective way to work the media isn’t by impugning their integrity.

SPEED CAMERAS REVISITED

A couple of weeks ago in this column I wrote about the introduction of fixed speed cameras in Gibraltar and what I saw as potential deficiencies in the scheme. (You can read the article in my blog: gibsteve.com).

It seems to have struck a chord as I’ve had considerable feedback, mostly agreeing with my observations. One message came from an old school friend who now lives in Australia. He explained how it works over there.

As with our system the vehicle owner receives an infringement notice but unlike here, where no time frame is specified, he must get it within two weeks of the alleged offence having been committed. The owner has a month in which to respond, stating who the driver was.

There are three other significant differences.

• In Gibraltar you can choose to pay a fixed £100 penalty to avoid letting the matter be decided by the courts. In Australia payment of the penalty is obligatory in addition to any other punishment.

• Whereas in Gibraltar the penalty is £100 irrespective of how much you were speeding by, in Australia the fine is scaled. If you were over the limit by less than 10 kilometres per hour, for instance, the fine is $180. Exceed it by 40 km/h and it’s $600.

• Even more importantly, committing a speeding offence incurs demerit points. In the above examples, you get one demerit point for the relatively minor offence but lose your licence for six months for the more serious one. You also get a fine and 3 demerit points for jumping a red light. Accumulate 12 points and you lose your licence.

In the UK the minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points added to your licence. Fixed penalties are graduated depending on the severity of the offence, and if you were going at well over the limit a summons is issued: you don’t have the option of paying the fixed penalty. If you build up 12 or more penalty points in three years you could be disqualified from driving.

These measures make sense if the point of the speed cameras is, as the government says, to prevent accidents and save lives. Dangerous drivers must be removed from our roads, and asking them to pay £100 each time they speed isn’t going to achieve that.

mm
Stephen Neish
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