Today I received an email alerting me to a petion against section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002. Personally I was never aware that this law existed… essentially it gives any uniformed officer the power to issue you with a written warning and, on a subsequent occasion, the power to seize your vehicle. the officer does not even need to have proof in order to issue a warning or seize your car! Read on for further information and links.
Section 59 & vehicle seizures
“Where an officer has reasonable grounds for believing that a motor vehicle is being used in a manner which contravenes Road Traffic Act Section 3 (Careless Driving) OR Section 34 (Driving elsewhere than on a road) AND also the manner of use of the vehicle is causing or has been causing or is likely to cause, alarm distress or annoyance to members of the public”
In a nutshell if a police officer believes you to be using your vehicle “in manner causing alarm, distress or annoyance” he or she can then issue you with a written warning which is valid for 12 months. If you are seen to be repeating the offence (I’ll call it that for now) having already recieved a written warning then you car can be siezed there and then. Even worse is the part where it says:
“Seizure can made only if a warning has been given, or believed to have been given, or if a warning is clearly being ignored.”
In other words, you don’t nessesarily have to have been issued with a warning to have your vehicle seized.
I can’t see this being a problem if the act is used as indended i.e. if some idiot is doing burnouts in the street, driving recklessly near a school or blasting thier music at full volume in a quiet residential area. Then I could see the reasoning, however we all know that there are good cops, and bad cops (excuse the cheesy phrase) and the problem lies in the interpretation of the act. In this case it leaves far too much to be open to interpretation, you do not have to be breaking any law to be issued with a warning, your car could comply fully with every legal requirement and you could still be issued with a warning because the officer believes it could be, or is causing an annoyance a member of the public.
Obviously this could cause problems with anybody who likes to modify their car, a performance exhaust could be enough to result in a warning and I don’t imagine anybody would be impressed at having to replace an exhaust (that is not in breach of any law) just to avoid having their car seized!
As I stated earlier, I wasn’t aware until today that any such act was in effect, at least it has never affected me in the past five years. Still, I think the petition to abolish section 59 of the police reform act on the 10 downing street website is worth signing because as it stands the act is too vague and leaves too much up to personal opinion…
Online Petition at 10 Downing Street site.