Andy Procter has been caught speeding five times
in the past three years but retains his driving licence and
continues to drive with a cavalier disdain for the Gatso.
He is able to do so because he is a “passer off” of penalty
points — a driver who pays the fines incurred by his bad
habits but gets others to take the points that would
otherwise lead to a driving ban.
In Procter’s case the recipients of his points are his very
accommodating family. Passing off points is a dodge that
is widespread across the country, according to some road
“There’s a huge number of people doing it,” says Paul Smith,
founder of Safe Speed, a campaign group against the proliferation
of speed cameras. “To some people it’s common sense. If the
husband has six or nine points on his licence and faces the
prospect of disqualification while his wife has no points,
it just seems easier for him to say, ‘Well, you take mine, dear’.”
Exact figures are hard to come by but last year a survey by
Churchill Insurance found that 2.2% of the 2,000 drivers
questioned admitted to taking points on behalf of their partner.
This equates to 726,000 of the 33m licence holders. More
worryingly for the police, a third said they would consider
asking their partners to admit to their speeding offence
if it prevented them losing their licence. The majority of
those who had taken the rap for a partner were women.
It is not the only dodge that has come to police attention.
Other evasions include naming a fictitious person as driver,
altering a driving licence number and using a false address.
All are prosecutable offences.
There have even been rumours of drivers passing off points to
the recently deceased; scanning the obituary columns in
newspapers and naming the driver as a person who would have
been alive when the offence took place.
The situation has got to the point where Greater Manchester
police have begun issuing notices with their fixed-penalty
tickets warning drivers of the consequences of passing off points,
which can include jail for perjury.
Such threats cut no ice with Procter, a 54-year-old property
developer who lives in the country but has a home in southwest
London and drives almost 30,000 miles a year. Unsurprisingly,
he doesn’t want his real name known. He has a 5-series BMW and
a heavy foot. He was banned twice in the days when three
endorsements meant automatic suspension. Today, under the totting
up system, drivers usually lose their licence when they have collected
12 or more penalty points. Two of Procter’s more recent speeding
offences were spotted by police and as a result he has six points.
The other three were less of a problem.
The first involved a Gatso near Yeovil. Procter’s wife, who drives a
Nissan Micra and, jokes her husband, gets fly-strikes on the rear
windscreen, agreed to confess to being the driver and take the three
points. She refused to play the white knight a second time for a
similar incident but Procter was able to involve his sister-in-law
in return for a substantial present.
A third penalty notice followed a trip to Oxford, and Procter managed
to persuade an elderly aunt to take it. “She still has a licence
but she’s given up driving,” he says.
But here he almost came unstuck. After he had sent off the form naming
the “driver” a summons arrived requesting her appearance in court.
“She’s 76 and she walks with sticks,” says Procter. “I knew if she
had to be helped into court to answer a charge of driving at 94mph
on the A34 shortly after midnight in her nephew’s BMW, they would
smell a rat.”
The solution was to have a doctor write a sicknote saying she was
unable to attend. In her absence she was fined £200 with £30 costs
and awarded six penalty points.
Procter has run out of family conspirators and has been researching
the black market in penalty points for when he next feels a flash on
the back of his neck. “I’m told some students charge between £500 and
£700 for three points. That would be worth it to a lot of people,
Like many drivers he considers speed cameras to be legal extortion
and has no qualms about his actions. “Speed doesn’t kill — if it did,
all the deaths would be on the motorways. Bad roads kill, and that’s
not my department,” he says.
“There’s no logic to where they put their speed limits. You can look
at a stretch of road and have no idea what the speed limit is for it,
or why. They change the number at random intervals and if you miss a
sign, bingo — gotcha! Well, two can play at that game. But I’ll play
by my rules.”
Greater Manchester police beg to differ. Chief Inspector Haydn Roberts,
of the force’s traffic network services, says: “Our best-known case was
Stewart and Cathryn Bromley who invented a fictitious Bulgarian employee
they said had been driving the car and even travelled to Bulgaria to
send a postcard from him. They were fined £9,200 with £1,900 costs
and would have gone to jail if they hadn’t pleaded guilty.
“We have anecdotal evidence of penalty points changing hands for money,
but a lot of it is urban myth — most people who get speeding fines are
otherwise law-abiding and don’t want to turn a fixed penalty into a
crime of a wholly different magnitude, namely perverting the course
Not every driver caught speeding by a camera will be able to pass off
the offence. Gatso cameras produce images in which the driver is
indiscernible, but forward-facing Truvelo cameras produce clear images.
Computers are also programmed to throw up details of cars that seem to
have a lot of different drivers.
But ultimately, says Roberts, all this is detail. “We need to make
speeding unacceptable in the public mind. We are slaughtering 3,500
people a year on our roads. I spent a lot of time on the road as a
police officer and I remember the dead, particularly the children.
Almost all drivers believed they were driving at a safe speed right
up to the instant they hit the childTimes Online Click Me