It was not long before ‘Old Bill’ was on my tail again. I did wonder if they were joining in my sport – but this was a different Police Authority in a different county, so it was unlikely. Again, I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, but this time I was driving a more modern car, but it was quite soon after the change of law, so I had just forgotten.
I had been driving happily along a dual carriageway and slowing down for a queue of traffic in both lanes, approaching traffic lights, when I spotted a police car that surreptitiously moved into that blind spot of my door mirror. Unfortunately just because you can’t see them, does not mean they can’t see enough of you. I came to a halt and put my seatbelt on.
They slowly overtook me and stopped in their shorter queue. When the lights changed, I pulled gently away in the forlorn hope they would bugger off. While I enjoyed the occasional tussle with the boys in blue, it was getting to be too often and, being a pragmatic bloke, I recognised that the more often you engage in dangerous sport, the more likely you are to get hurt.
I decided to turn left up a side road that looped around to where I was heading but I cursed when they slowed down, switched lanes and followed me. I stopped in the road outside a pub and climbed out just as they drew up. Ignoring them, I headed for the pub.
“Where might you be going, Sir?” asked a portly officer.
“In the pub,” I answered honestly, as we entered into that stupid question and curt answer phase.
“Have you been drinking, Sir?”
“I said I’m going into the pub – not leaving it.”
“Do you know why we followed you, Sir?”
“Because you’re lost?”
“Don’t play games with us, Sir – this is serious.”
“Yes it is – very serious – because if you keep messing about I shall have to stand here in full public view and take a pee and it will be because of you that I shall have to expose myself. Now will you let me go into the toilet, please?”
They looked at each other, “Be quick about it then, Sir.”
I went in, took my time, certain of the outcome, and was very carefully drying my hands when the large officer came in, “Need to go too, Officer – good job I stopped here, wasn’t it?”
“No, Sir – you were a long time so I thought I should find out what you’re doing,” he said looking up at the tiny barred window with evident relief, “I’ll wait for you by your car.”
Five minutes later after ‘paying’ for my pee with a nice cool lemonade, out I sauntered. Now had I been drinking I would have had plenty of time to chuck a couple of evidence-destroying whiskeys down my throat – but I hadn’t been, so the lemonade was just right.
“Now, Officer, what may I help you with?”
“What is your name and address, Sir – and do you have your driving licence to hand?”
I gave them the details they asked for, took my licence from my wallet, and opened it on the pages they were entitled to see – those with my personal details and what I was qualified to drive.
The officer went to take it. “I can’t let you take it – but everything you need to see is in front of you.”
“Why won’t you let me look at it properly,” he asked, suspiciously, “do you have something to hide?”
“I have nothing to hide, but you are only entitled to read the two pages I have offered you.”
“You’re trying to hide your previous offences – is that it, Sir?”
“If I have offences, which I am not admitting, you are not entitled to see them.”
“Think you know the law, do you, Sir?”
“So far, probably more than you.”
He went red in the face with anger, “I won’t press that point, Sir. Do you have any idea why we stopped you?”
“You didn’t stop me.”
“Of course we...let me rephrase that, Sir. Do you know why we stopped behind you and why we are talking to you now?”
“You have nothing better to do, Officer?”
His hackles were clearly up. “You committed a moving traffic offence, Sir – as you well remember, which is why you nipped up this side road in an attempt to lose us,” he crowed.
“I have no idea about any moving traffic offence, Occifer.”
“Are you sure you haven’t been drinking?”
“I had a lemonade in the pub there, while you were waiting. If I had been drinking I would have been able to drink something alcoholic, wouldn’t I?”
“So you could beat the breathalyser?”
“Not at all. You are quite free to breathalyse me but it would be a waste of time on two counts.”
“Two counts, Sir?”
“Yes, firstly you would have to demonstrate that I did indeed commit the moving traffic offence you allege and even then the opportunity you afforded me to consume alcohol in the pub would render any such test null and void.”
“I cannot smell alcohol on your breath, Sir, I grant you that, so we’ll not be pursuing the breathalyser – but you did commit a moving traffic offence.”
“Before the traffic lights you were not wearing a seatbelt, Sir.”
“When did you observe this, Officer?” I asked, feigning resignation and capitulation.
“As we drove past you in the traffic queue – we saw you put the belt on because you’d spotted us behind you.”
“Was that when you were coming up behind me, when you passed me by, or when you came to a standstill?”
“When we passed you.”
I took out my diary and wrote, ‘At 14.23...’ – I read his number, F1772 – “Your name please, Constable...?”
“Er, Bannister – Sir, why?”
I continued writing, ‘…F1772, PC Bannister explained that he believes that as his police car slowly passed me in a queue, he saw me putting on my seatbelt at the by-pass traffic lights in Darnham.’ I held it up for him to read but he did not attempt this time to take what I held before him. Funny, I thought that he should understand he has no right to take my diary because it’s private, yet believes he has a right to handle my driving licence. “Do you agree with what I have written, Constable?” I asked feigning humility.
“Yes, Sir – are you now admitting you were not wearing a seatbelt?”
“Perhaps if you would do one of two things, I might.”
“Such as what, Sir?”
“Either you sign my diary or write the same up in your notebook.”
“I’ll write it in my notebook.” He did and showed it to me.
“Come off it, Constable. I’ve not yet admitted to anything so you must delete that part saying
‘Mr Stevens admitted...’ until Mr Stevens does in fact admit.”
“Does it make any difference, Sir, if you’re going to admit it?”
“Of course it does, because your timing would not agree with what I have in my diary.”
He crossed the piece out angrily and initialled it, “Now Sir, as to your admission.”
“Oh yes – I admit I was putting my seatbelt on while waiting to move in the traffic queue before the traffic lights.”
“Thank you, Sir,” he said and wrote my words in his notebook, “In the light of your confession I shall caution you for not wearing a seatbelt and offer you the chance of a fixed penalty notice of £40.”
“But you can’t do that.”
“Because as I said and you wrote down, I was waiting to move which implies I was stationary and the law does not require me to wear a seatbelt when stationary.”
“Now you’re splitting hairs, Sir. We observed you were not wearing your seatbelt immediately prior to your car becoming stationary and then we saw you fitting your seatbelt – so you are quite aware that a seatbelt must be worn during all movements,” he said stiffly, handing me back the fixed penalty notice.”
“I’m afraid I cannot accept that, Constable – you have no evidence.”
“We blood...blooming-well saw you – we need no other evidence.”
“Who is the ‘we’ you are referring to, Constable?”
“Me and my driver, PC Hutchings.”
“Who was, ‘as you said’, driving slowly past at the relevant time?”
“Yes, Sir, confirmed the driver.”
“Well that’s it then,” I said, heading for my car, you have no evidence so you must let me go.”
PC Bannister headed after me as if to apprehend me, “I wouldn’t do that, Sir or I shall be forced to arrest you.”
I turned and looked him in the eyes, “I suggest you read up on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, latest amendment – you have no evidence because you have no witness.”
“My driver saw...” realisation partly dawned.
“That’s right PC Bannister – your driver was moving at the material time and as such he is disqualified from acting as a witness. Now you have my name and address; you may choose to caution me that you intend to press charges and we would all have to spend a pleasant day in the magistrates’ court. I would of course plead not guilty and seek costs – but it’s your decision.”
He stuck his nose up close to mine, “Why don’t you just piss off, Mr Know-all.”
“I’d be delighted to, Cont-stable, why ever didn’t you suggest that earlier...?”
I hope you have enjoyed reading 'Belt Up' which is from Short Fews 2, a collection of 8 humorous short stories and is available to buy on Amazon Kindle or if you still need convincing,
you can read more excerpts from Short Fews 2