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Speed guns banned at bases

PUBLISHED: 18:00 02 November 2001 | UPDATED: 15:19 03 March 2010

MILITARY police trained speed guns at civilian traffic in a bid to target speeding around Suffolk's military bases - but the scheme was dropped following a series of complaints, the Evening Star can reveal today.

MILITARY police trained speed guns at civilian traffic in a bid to target speeding around Suffolk's military bases - but the scheme was dropped following a series of complaints, the Evening Star can reveal today.

During an ill-fated trial earlier this year, military police teamed up with Suffolk Constabulary in a joint crack-down on speeding along country lanes in the Needham Market area near Wattisham Airfield and Woodbridge, where many servicemen and their families live.

Inspector Ivan Smith, based at Stowmarket police station, explained that the uniformed Royal Military Police and Ministry of Defence police, who guard MoD land and property, provided the equipment and technical know-how to operate the hi-tech radar devices while community bobby Pc Diane Porter dealt out tickets.

But motorists took offence at being caught out in speed traps laid by the RMP, the distinctive "Red Caps" who normally police servicemen and women - even if they happened to be travelling too fast.

Head of the county's force, Chief Constable Paul Scott-Lee was forced to pull the plug on the three-month summer initiative after receiving too many complaints. The exact number is unknown.

Insp Smith added the number of people successfully prosecuted was split "50-50" between military personnel and the local population, scotching belief among communities living near to the base that speeding servicemen were mainly to blame.

"Evidentially, it is quite a sound process but in the round it was thought inappropriate to be using military police to give evidence against civilians," he said.

Lt Col Peter Coombe, station staff officer at Wattisham, said that only "a handful" of offenders were caught during the exercise which he described as a "casual arrangement" between the military police forces and Suffolk Constabulary.

"The Suffolk force had a problem in getting as many cameras out on the ground as they'd like - and the RMP and Ministry of Defence police both had cameras which could be used."

Not everyone was against the scheme, however. Needham Market's town clerk Jo Lea said its discontinuation was a matter of "regret".

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