A former policeman and Labour councillor has quit being magistrate because he is ‘uneasy’ about punishing people for breaking the Welsh government’s 20mph policy.
Nick Colbourne, who has served on the bench in Wrexham and Mold, North Wales, for 18 years, said he is ‘completely disappointed in Welsh Labour’, adding the extension of 20mph limits to all built-up areas was ‘done with very little consultation, just imposed’.
Mr Colbourne was persuaded to become a magistrate during a four-year stint as a Labour county councillor in the mid-2000s in Ruabon, near Wrexham, the village he used to patrol as a PC.
But he said he was ‘uneasy’ about having to deal with people caught breaking the 20mph limit who will have to pay a ‘£100 fine, £110 towards prosecution costs and a £40 surcharge’.
Mr Colbourne said: ‘You are talking about a total of £250 for driving at 24 mph. It’s okay for the politicians who have brought in this law but they are not dealing with the public. It’s the police and magistrates who will have to face people’s wrath. I’m not going to do it.
Nick Colbourne, who has served on the bench in Wrexham and Mold, North Wales, for 18 years, said he is ‘completely disappointed in Welsh Labour’
‘Meanwhile, young fools still whizz about doing 60-70mph and the 20-mph limit has made no difference to them.’
The married father of two daughters, who has worked in law and order since becoming a policeman aged 19, said he was out of the country for the first few weeks after the limit was cut from 30mph to 20mph and is still getting used to the change in driving habits.
‘I’m still at the point of being behind people and wondering ‘what’s the matter, this is painfully slow’, when I realise, ‘of course, we have to go at 20 mph’,’ he said.
Mr Colbourne said of enforcing the policy: ‘That’s not what court’s about – it feels like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
‘Some people are going to be caught more than once. If you get 12 points, you’re looking at a six-month ban under the totting up scheme.’
Mr Colbourne revealed the 20mph limit is not the only issue with speed limits in Wales which has caused him frustration.
He said: ‘I had a man in court a few months ago who had done 62 miles per hour on the A483 in Wrexham.
‘The signs there say the 50mph speed limit is in place due ‘to pollution’, but this man was driving an electric van – presumably that’s what the government ultimately wants us to do [to tackle pollution].
Mr Colbourne said that the extension of 20mph limits to all built-up areas was ‘done with very little consultation, just imposed’
‘But if you’re in an electric vehicle, how are you creating any more pollution? They can’t justify it.’
Mr Colbourne, a trustee of national charity Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, said he also decided to resign from working as a magistrate because of ‘far too much interference’ and a ‘lack of appreciation’ that they are volunteers.
He told local Wrexham newspaper The Leader: ‘It used to be that if the police wanted a search warrant, or the local authority needed a warrant for a child in concerning circumstances for example, you’d issue them.
‘But now it’s been decided that you need a special ability to do that, so you have to be on a panel.
‘And the same thing’s been done with Magistrates sitting in Crown Court on appeals; only a select few now sit in Crown Court.
The married father of two daughters, who has worked in law and order since becoming a policeman aged 19, said he was out of the country for the first few weeks after the limit was cut from 30mph to 20mph and is still getting used to the change in driving habits
Mr Colbourne revealed the 20mph limit is not the only issue with speed limits in Wales which has caused him frustration
‘It’s hoops to jump through to do basic stuff – they (management) have decided ‘no, we need a specialised number of people doing this’ and I don’t agree with it.’
Mr Colbourne also said magistrates are ‘overworked’ and called it ‘beyond patronising’ that people such as himself and older magistrates are having to face evaluations.
He said: ‘There are people in their 70s being appraised – that’s degrading. People tick off these silly questions such as ‘did you arrive 30 minutes before the court started’ and ‘did you familiarise yourself with all the people sitting in court?’
‘I’ve been in law enforcement since I was 19 and have probably forgotten more points of law than all (the assessors) put together.’
But Mr Colbourne, who resigned from Labour out of disillusionment with leader Sir Keir Starmer, added the 20mph policy was ‘the last straw’.
But Mr Colbourne, who resigned from Labour out of disillusionment with leader Sir Keir Starmer, added the 20mph policy was ‘the last straw’
He said: ‘It’s an ill-thought-out policy. This is hitting ordinary motorists in the pocket.
‘I totally get 20mph (limits) in front of schools and where children are playing – and I don’t think anyone opposed it. But elsewhere we find it strange.
‘I know how people live on the breadline, but below it too, and this will hit them. People struggle to keep a car on the road.’
A Welsh Government spokesman said introducing different speed limits for electric vehicles on roads where limits have been lowered for air quality reasons would ‘lead to road safety issues and reduce effectiveness’, adding the electric vehicles still produce ‘particulate pollution’.
He said the 20mph limit is ‘saving lives and making our communities safer for everyone, including motorists’.
Mr Colbourne’s wider frustrations were backed by Magistrates’ Association Chief Executive Tom Franklin, who said: ‘Magistrates’ efforts are not properly appreciated.
‘The magistracy relies on the goodwill of volunteers and that goodwill needs to be nurtured, not taken for granted.’
A Judicial Office spokesman said: ‘We continue to appreciate and value the hugely important voluntary work of magistrates across England and Wales and comprehensive training and resources are provided to support their vital work.’