The past year/18 months have been filled with an odd nostalgia for my home country. First, there was the moving abroad and feeling like an outsider during the settling in period, and then you had the Queen’s diamond jubilee followed by the Olympics to raise the nation’s sense of pride in itself.
After today, however, I could not feel more apathy or disgust for my country and its forces of law and order.
We’ve all heard horror stories about the Police – Ian Tomlinson being one of the more recent bone-chillers and what I’m about to say leaves me questioning more than ever why I pay my taxes to pay people who are really nothing more than bullies in uniform and who provide a questionable service at the best of times. It also makes me question why on earth I would want to stay in this miserable hell hole.
In April, I had a car accident on the B1004 coming from Much Hadham on my way back to my parents’ in Bishop’s Stortford on a bit known locally as Winding Hill. It had been raining, and as I drove round a blind bend on the 1 in 8 incline, there was a car coming towards me on my side of the road. I instinctively steered to avoid the oncoming car, and unfortunately into the detritus of wet mushy leaves at the side of the road. As a result of this, I then lost control of the car. It span and hit the other car, causing enough damage to write the car I was driving off.
When the Hyundai I had been driving came to a stop, I recovered enough from the shock to realise that I was left diagonally across both lanes, unable to move. I climbed out and onto one of the 6′ high banks of trees lining the road.
The other car, in the meantime, had continued to drive around the corner and I later found out that they had stopped a bit further down.
A passer-by stopped and kindly let me sit in her car whilst I waited for my mother and Plod to show up. Whilst waiting, two other passers-by decided to clear the road and moved the Hyundai across to the other side.
As the accident occurred on the public highway, Plod informed us that they were the ones to recover the car to one of their yards.
The driver of the other car was complaining of neck pain, and so an ambulance was called for her and she was boarded and braced and taken to the local hospital.
I then gave my statement and the policeman I was speaking to remarked that I would probably receive a letter to confirm what had happened and they had been called and nothing more, as it all seemed like “just one of those freak accidents”.
The paramedics came over to check me out and it was agreed that should I have any problems, to go straight to A&E.
3 hours or so later, and that’s exactly where I found myself. Unbeknownst to me, my knees had taken quite the knock and the dark patches on my jeans were not from the car, rather the abrasions on my knees bleeding through. My knees swelled up later and as I sat in A&E waiting to be seen as I could no longer walk properly, I saw the driver of the other car walk out of the hospital as if nothing were amiss.
I was told to avoid walking for 2-3 days and to try and keep the joint elevated. I still have a bruise there now.
2-3 months later I received the promised letter from Hertfordshire Constabulary confirmed what had happened and that they had been called.
The insurance said that as there were no witnesses to the accident, it was my word against hers and that as she was the more experienced driver, her version of events were being taken over mine. She also made a personal injury claim.
I didn’t drive again until roughly 2 months later. It took me until August (4 months later) to be able to drive that same road again. I have since been driving more, and where possible, with a passenger who holds a full UK license who has at least 20 years driving experience. Every one of them has remarked that I am an acceptable and safe driver.
You can therefore imagine my shock and disgust when I received a letter from Hertfordshire Constabulary today threatening me with the following:
“On the evidence available to me, I believe that you may have committed an offence contrary to Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 by:
Driving without due care and attention
Without reasonable consideration for other road users.
If proceedings were to be brought, it would be a matter for the Magistrate’s Court to decide whether or not you have broken the law.
I consider it appropriate to offer you an opportunity to attend a Driver Alertness Course. I am certain you will benefit considerably from your attendance on this course and ultimately be a safer driver. This is an alternative to proceedings against you in the Magistrate’s Court for driving without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for other road users. Court proceedings can result in fines, penalty points and possible disqualification from driving, A [sic] Magistrate’s Court cannot offer this opportunity without an order from them to disqualify a driver until he/she has successfully passed a learner-driving test.”
The leaflet included informs you that the course costs £135 (VAT exempt) and that it must be completed within 5 months of the incident. I also have 14 days within the date on the letter to complete the course, which lasts a day and consists of a 2.5 hour classroom session followed by me being assessed on my driving by a qualified instructor.
I would like to point out that the letter received has “Date as post mark” printed in the date field, and that the post mark itself has no date. I shall therefore assume that the date is as of today, Saturday 18th August 2012. I would also like to bring it to your attention that it has taken them 4 out of those 5 months to actually send this letter out.
The office I have to call is closed on weekends and Bank Holidays, so that means that in reality, I only have 12 days to book the course. Of course, as there is no date on the letter or the envelope, the timeframe could be a lot shorter.
What has me so incensed, I suppose the word is, is that I have not been told what evidence there is to prove beyond reasonable doubt that I am responsible for the accident. There were no skid marks on the road; there were no witnesses and as this road is rural, and surrounded by high banks with trees, there were no cameras around to film the accident. In addition to that, it is assumed that 1) I have a car to get to Hatfield to take the course, and 2) that either I or my parents have said £135 to pay the course fee, let alone be able to pay the expenses required to go to court, were it to come to that.
It also says a lot about our justice system if they can summons – or threaten to summons – a young driver to court, with little or no evidence which basically amounts to my word versus theirs, and pass a judgement on that basis.
So on Monday, I will phone up and try to book a place for the course. (I will be distinctly unimpressed if there are not enough places on the course for the allotted timeframe.) I will be polite and mild-mannered for the duration of the course, and I will sit through the expected patronising drivel that they will dish out with relish.
But on the bright side, I now know exactly where my taxes are going, and I have certainly had my eyes opened as to the kind of corrupt, hypocritical, lying, bullying state that I have the severe misfortune to live in. I pay my taxes like a good citizen. I have never broken the law, and yet here I am, threatened with being summonsed to court accused of something I did not do. The really sad thing in all of this, is that this appears to be common practice.
Justice system? What justice system?
Europe, I’m yours.