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Are the Met police issuing illegal fixed penalties to cyclists?

4 October 2010

Last Wednesday TfL announced the results of a traffic enforcement operation carried out over the summer by the Met Police’s Cycle Task Force, which TfL funds.

TfL claimed that over 400 fixed penalty notices of up to £60 were issued to cyclists.

I thought this was just a mistake in the press release. But then a colleague told me she’d seen a policeman stopping a cyclist and telling him it was court “or a sixty pound fine”.

So I decided to double-check.

Fixed penalty notices for cyclists

I’ve posted before on what you can and can’t get a fixed penalty for when you’re cycling. I said in that post that fixed penalties for cyclists are generally £30 (going up to £45 if you don’t pay within the time limit).

I’ve looked again, and as far as I can see, the highest fixed penalty you can be given for an offence you commit on your bike is £30.

So what’s going on? If the Met are handing out £60 FPNs to cyclists, it looks like there are three possible explanations.

1. Offences involving obligatory endorsement

They might be treating cycling offences as offences involving obligatory endorsement (i.e. penalty points). If you commit this kind of offence, they do have power to issue a £60 FPN. (FPO Sch 1, item 3)

But, as I’ve posted before, there are no cycling offences I’m aware of for which you can get penalty points. Take jumping a red light, for example: this can be an offence involving obligatory endorsement, but only where the person committing it is driving a motor vehicle. (RTA s. 36(1); RTOA s. 96, Sch 2 pt 1)

So if the Met are treating cycling offences as offences involving obligatory endorsement, then it looks like the £60 FPNs they’re handing out are illegal.

2. One FPN, two offences

Alternatively they could be issuing a single FPN for two offences at once – for example giving you a £60 FPN if they see you jumping two red lights. The problem with this is that the legislation is phrased in the singular – enabling the police to issue FPNs in respect of one offence (not two). (RTOA ss. 52(1), 54(1) and (2))

If they see you commit two offences on your bike, there’s nothing stopping them giving you two separate £30 FPNs. But, again, it looks like one single £60 FPN would be illegal.   

3. Other legislation

They could be relying on a piece of legislation I don’t know about – for example a bylaw which only applies in London. But I’ve had a thorough look and not found anything. So while this is possible, it looks fairly unlikely.

Is this really happening?

So is this actually happening? Has anyone actually got one of the £60 FPNs for a cycling offence?

If so, I’m not saying you should necessarily challenge it – it would be a headache, and may well cost you more than the £60 you’d have to pay for the FPN.

But there might be other people who are prepared to challenge this practice more generally. So if this has happened to you, I’d be very interested to hear about it.

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4 Comments
  1. 5 October 2010 09:13

    it now looks like the TfL press release linked to above has been taken down.

    road.cc has an article about the release as it originally appeared, recording the claim about £60 FFNs, here:

    http://road.cc/content/news/24902-met-cycle-task-force-numbers-boosted

  2. 5 October 2010 13:19

    It could as you see be a by-law but there is another possibility. More than one offence could be committed. Eg if someone rides on the pavement and then parks their cycle there, two Road Traffic Act Offences are being committed.

    It could also be someone deciding to raise the level of the fine without first changing or checking the law. That does happen and in London especially there have been a lot of changes lately with regard to cycling, some of which are being rushed through.

    Would be interested to find out what the reason is though.

  3. 5 October 2010 14:13

    @ Cycle Maps UK, I think your point about committing two offences was already dealt with in the original post:

    “If they see you commit two offences on your bike, there’s nothing stopping them giving you two separate £30 FPNs. But, again, it looks like one single £60 FPN would be illegal.”

    Interesting what you say about “someone deciding to raise the level of the fine without first changing or checking the law”, I didn’t realise that could happen!

    • 5 October 2010 14:36

      Hi LJ – short answer is: it shouldn’t!

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