Bob asked for our comment on police use of section 59 of Police Reform Act 2002.
The story goes like this. “Last year a mate was riding in North Wales and was stopped for filtering and issued with a Sect 59. I suppose he did not know exactly what this was, and perhaps being threatened with due care and attention he took the warning. He tells me that while slowly passing traffic on offside a van pulled out in front of him and caused him to ride over broken white line into opposite carriageway. He returned to his own side of the road immediately and caused no oncoming vehicle to swerve or alter course. However he was stopped by PC and done.
Last month he was pulled for apparently overtaking a vehicle within the confines of a pedestrian crossing. He was passed the crossing at the time and did not believe that this constituted an offence. He was pulled by the police for this offence and having a sect 59 recorded against him he had his bike confiscated for committing a similar offence to the first.
The follow up was that he was informed where the bike was to be held, he made his way there and on paying the fees got his bike back same day.
It looks like rather than try to prove an offence against sect 3 where after reporting the defendant has the recourse to the courts, the police are pursuing this sect 59 where they need no proof and there is no recourse only to another police officer and we know where that would lead. Even ASBO’s need more proof than this.”
The first point is that a section 59 notice is recorded against the vehicle and the rider or driver.
Our thoughts on Bob’s question have to be set out in detail as it is worth understanding what the law actually says..
Section 3 is from the Road Traffic Act 1988, and contains the offence of careless, and inconsiderate, driving:
“If a person drives a motor vehicle on a road without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road, he is guilty of an offence.”
This is usually called driving without due care, but do read the offence in full, as it can include driving through a puddle and splashing people in a bus queue.
Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 is quite different as it deals with vehicles used in manner causing alarm, distress or annoyance.
“(1) Where a constable in uniform has reasonable grounds for believing that a motor vehicle is being used on any occasion in a manner which-
(a) contravenes section 3 or 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) (careless and inconsiderate driving and prohibition of off-road driving), and
(b) is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public,
he shall have the powers set out in subsection (3).
(2) A constable in uniform shall also have the powers set out in subsection (3) where he has reasonable grounds for believing that a motor vehicle has been used on any occasion in a manner falling within subsection (1).
(3) Those powers are-
(a) power, if the motor vehicle is moving, to order the person driving it to stop the vehicle;
(b) power to seize and remove the motor vehicle;
(c) power, for the purposes of exercising a power falling within paragraph (a) or (b), to enter any premises on which he has reasonable grounds for believing the motor vehicle to be;
(d) power to use reasonable force, if necessary, in the exercise of any power conferred by any of paragraphs to (a) to (c).
(4) A constable shall not seize a motor vehicle in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by this section unless-
(a) he has warned the person appearing to him to be the person whose use falls within subsection (1) that he will seize it, if that use continues or is repeated; and
(b) it appears to him that the use has continued or been repeated after the warning.
(5) Subsection (4) does not require a warning to be given by a constable on any occasion on which he would otherwise have the power to seize a motor vehicle under this section if-
(a) the circumstances make it impracticable for him to give the warning;
(b) the constable has already on that occasion given a warning under that subsection in respect of any use of that motor vehicle or of another motor vehicle by that person or any other person;
(c) the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that such a warning has been given on that occasion otherwise than by him; or
(d) the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that the person whose use of that motor vehicle on that occasion would justify the seizure is a person to whom a warning under that subsection has been given (whether or not by that constable or in respect the same vehicle or the same or a similar use) on a previous occasion in the previous twelve months.
(6) A person who fails to comply with an order under subsection (3)(a) is guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(7) Subsection (3)(c) does not authorise entry into a private dwelling house.
(8) The powers conferred on a constable by this section shall be exercisable only at a time when regulations under section 60 are in force.
(9) In this section-
* “driving” has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52);
* “motor vehicle” means any mechanically propelled vehicle, whether or not it is intended or adapted for use on roads; and
* “private dwelling house” does not include any garage or other structure occupied with the dwelling house, or any land appurtenant to the dwelling house.”
Sorry to set it out in full, but this looks like a real issue, so best we understand it.
The purpose of section 59 is not to deal with a motoring offence, but to deal with a situation where use of the vehicle is “causing, or is likely to cause, alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public.” This is a requirement for the section to come into play. It allows the police to stop cars and bikes firing up and down residential roads, car parks, or off road. This is different to someone driving poorly and breaching section 3 of the Road Traffic Act above. The two sections crossover as for section 59 the driving or riding is supposed to contravene section 3, but the additional requirement is the alarm, distress or annoyance bit. That means a circumstance above and beyond the effect of driving “without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road…”
It is a pretty powerful law, particularly if a police force decide to use it aggressively. It is meant to swiftly stop a nasty situation from arising. The officer stops the vehicle, gives a warning, and if you carry on your vehicle is taken away. In your mate’s situation he might have been guilty of a section 3 offence, but we question if section 59 should have come into play. The warning is recorded and is “live” as the section comes into play if the officer knows the vehicle has been used before in a way which steps on the toes of this section. So, although the law was set up to deal with an immediate problem, the fact that an earlier warning has been given means that second time around you might lose your bike until you cough up for the charges to get it back.
The law is very loosely drafted, and in your mate’s case is being used as a convenient way of managing road behaviour without having to prosecute the offence. Given the choice would your mate rather be prosecuted or be disciplined as if he is a road hooligan. Section 3 carries between 3 and 9 penalty points.