by Rob Warner
Sat in the back of a taxi cab going into town today, I noticed that the driver was surreptitiously tapping text messages into his mobile phone while repeatedly taking his eyes off the road. When I got out I told him that I didn’t appreciate his casual attitude to my safety and that what he was doing was against the law.
Rather than apologise, he became defensive.
‘Fair enough’, I thought, ‘I’ll just complain to the licensing department of Derbyshire council’.
So I rang them up.
They refused to record the complaint and told me I had to report it the police instead. Trying not to laugh, I explained that I’d rather talk to someone who might actually do something about it and prevent this cabbie from putting other members of the public at risk.
“It’s not our jurisdiction”, I was told ” You have to call the police.”
I then did the most stupid thing you could ever do when talking to someone from the local authority. I used logic and reason. I tried to explain to this woman that I didn’t want to call the police because they would just dismiss it out of hand and tell me there was nothing they could do. Besides which, didn’t Derbyshire council have a duty of care to ensure members of the public weren’t wrapped around lamp-posts courtesy of the reckless cab drivers they granted licenses too?
“It’s not our jurisdiction,” she repeated like some defective corporate juke-box “you have to call the police.”
So I did. Spoke to Derbyshire’s finest. The Great Halls of the Helmeted Village Idiots.
Not to report it as a crime of course. But so I could record the police telling me “it’s not our jurisdiction, you have to call the council,” then ring the juke-box woman back and play it smugly down the phone.
But what did the police tell me instead? Fairy tales, that’s what. They told me that they will only prosecute members of the public for texting whilst driving if a police officer catches them doing it! Yup. You know, a police officer who is sat safely inside another vehicle somewhere else. Because for some strange reason, him seeing the offense is far more meaningful than me experiencing it. Even though I’m a victim and he’s just a man with a fistful of fixed penalty notices that the local authority want handing out.
Also, according to P.C. Makingitupashegoesalong I would need an independent witness before the police would lower themselves to so much as consider doing anything about it. And by an independent witness that means SOMEBODY WHO WAS NOT IN THE VEHICLE AT THE TIME. You know, like a stranger on the street who may have happened to glimpse in at the precise moment the driver was flashing past at 50 miles an hour. Presumably just before I throw myself out of this hypothetical cab so I can snare this hypothetical witness so that he can testify for me in hypothetical court.
Sounds like a load of hypothetical bullshit to me.
‘What about if I discreetly video the next taxi driver who puts my life at risk.’ I asked. ‘Would that satisfy the police’s demand for compelling evidence?’
Nope. Apparantly not. Because according to P.C IfIjustkeeptalkingnonsenselongenoughthisguywillgiveupandgoaway, there are new procedures in place that make the police unwilling to accept videos as evidence. And besides which, the CPS won’t prosecute because it costs too much to bring them to court and anyway it’s not us it’s the courts they make us do it and yeah but no, but yeah but no, but yeah but no…
So I wasted some more breath explaining that the CPS would have no involvement with such a summary offence. It could be dealt with by way of a Fixed Penalty Notice. Secondly, I wasn’t even ringing in to report this as a crime (although by now I was starting to feel the urge that I should). I was merely asking for advice on law and order which I believe the police dabble in every now and then. If the licensing authority have no interest in this reckless idiot, and the police themselves have no interest in this reckless idiot, perhaps they could tell me which government agency WOULD take an interest, so I could report it to them, you know on the off-chance – and call me Mr. Petty – that it would prevent a fatal accident from occurring.
“I’ll just go and speak to my supervisor.” he said.
I gave up.
This whole sorry experience brought home to me afresh why so many people don’t bother calling the police. Because when you do you are instantly dismissed as a petty time-waster. And if you try to take the softly-softly option of making a complaint elsewhere – rather than diving into a heavy handed criminal allegation – you get the usual buck passing rhetoric that is so characteristic of the local authority: “It’s not our problem, it’s somebody else’s.”
But here’s my point – and there is one among this episode of utter futility…
Contrary to the police’s dismissive attitude of petty although potentially deadly offenses – do you think there has ever been a British cop in existence who has ticketed someone for texting while driving then gone back to the station just to hear his superior officer say:
“Prosecute someone for driving while texting? Don’t waste our time and the valuable courts time with petty offences man. Chuck it in the bin.”
I think you know the answer to that.