But spending money in support of motorists who just want to avoid speeding restrictions demonstrates how wayward Liberty as an organisation have become...
With the smoking ban coming into effect on Sunday, there have been renewed articles in the press about smoker's civil liberties being infringed (there are even articles suggesting our cultural heritage and artistic expression will be damaged - (it seems any madcap idea will do to protect this dirty habit - smokers are getting increasingly desperate)). If they wasn't so serious it would be funny...
Those who think speed cameras and smoking bans infringe civil liberties are the sort of people who are giving the Human Rights Act a bad name. These sorts of cases are more about boosting lawyers and lobbyist's pay than about boosting civil liberties. What IS crystal clear, is that the rights of non-smokers to go where they like and breath cleaner air have most definitely been improved - liberties are not a one way street - every action has an opposite...etc. Thankfully Liberty have not taken up the smokers case yet but after supporting speeding drivers, who knows what bandwagon they will choose next.
Motorists are a powerful lobby and those who whip up a popularist campaign against speed cameras get a great deal of favourable press, so indeed do the smokers lobby (backed by the profits of tobacconists).
Liberty is a small organisation with around 9,000 members (about the same as the BNP). It probably thought to itself, here is a cause that will increase our profile and membership - lets get drivers on our side. This really is a cheap unprincipled thing to do, as the motives of those involved were nothing to do with protecting their right to silence and everything to do with their right to break the speed limit (infringing the rights of vulnerable pedestrians, cyclists and any other road user). Wongablog has a nice post about what he thinks of it all.
He argues if you want to drive faster - then campaign for higher speed limits not against their enforcement.
The arguments I have heard against speed cameras usually run something like this;
1. Speed Cameras do not reduce the overall accident rate (and some claim they even increase it).
The idea is that the driver's attention is distracted by speed cameras and that monitoring speed levels distracts your attention from safe driving, causing stop-go driving, heavy braking etc which in turn causes extra hazards for other drivers as cars speed up in areas without cameras etc.
This really is a spurious argument. Indeed this anti-social, dangerous culture does have to be changed - but abolishing speed cameras is not the answer - this is more an argument against enforcing speed restrictions than cameras themselves. Cameras are fair because unlike people they do not discriminate. Apparently the police are more likely to let off with a caution white, middle class people and attractive females - what a surprise eh! The evidence suggests that speed cameras DO reduce accident rates - which is not surprising when you think about it - what would you prefer, a poor driver driving slow or fast?
2. Speed cameras are just about raising revenue.
Even if this were true and it isn't, isn't it fair to fine people who break the law? Why is it that breaking the speed limit is so defended. No other form of law breaking is defended like this. It is hardly rocket science to figure out that driving faster than speed limits will result in more fatalities.
3. Finally speed cameras infringe our civil rights.
Please, give me strength. The right to silence is in danger because people don't want to pay their speeding fines - this really is an abuse of our sensibilities and courts. Those people in countries that really do have civil rights problems must be thinking we have gone completely mad to even suggest something like this.
I am sure there are other arguments, but these are the main ones as far as I can see and I really find the whole thing laughable. What it boils down to is that middle class white people preferred the old system because it meant they could speed without having to pay fines - that is it, end of story.