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Suella Braverman criticised by cycling campaign group for “avoiding public scrutiny” over speeding offence

“Over and over again we see senior politicians and others in public life not only caught speeding, but attempting to dismiss that as an issue and often getting away with no real consequences”

London Cycling Campaign has criticised Home Secretary Suella Braverman for not taking the dangers of speeding on road seriously after she committed an offence and allegedly requested civil servants to arrange a private speed awareness course, thus looking to “avoid public scrutiny” and “dismiss the danger caused to others by speeding”.

Braverman was caught speeding in a 50mph zone last summer when she was attorney general, and given the option of accepting a fine and points on her licence or attending a speed awareness course.

According to the Sunday Times, she allegedly asked civil servants to help her to arrange a one-to-one course to avoid the embarrassment of being recognised by fellow participants. When civil servants declined to do so, she sought other options including taking an online course without revealing her identity. Ultimately, she opted to pay the fine.

road.cc reached out to London Cycling Campaign, and Simon Munk, Head of Campaigns told us about the concerns this raises for the state of safety on British roads and drivers’ attitude towards speeding and the dangers caused by it.

He said: “Surveys tell us that a majority of UK drivers admit to speeding routinely. We have an enforcement and justice system that tolerates this and more, frequently lets off dangerous, even killer drivers for tearing apart lives, families and friendship circles with little or no consequences. And all while the evidence shows speeding is one of the primary causes of serious and fatal collisions.

“Anyone in public life, let alone someone responsible for the public’s safety, attempting to stand above the public on this issue and avoid an appropriate punishment is deeply concerning. Even more concerning is that over and over again we see senior politicians and others in public life not only caught speeding, but attempting to dismiss that as an issue and often getting away with no real consequences.

“We’ve also heard from those who have attended speed awareness courses that part of the benefit of the course is having others talking about the terrible excuses they’ve given themselves for speeding and indeed offenders having to confess their own excuses to others. Trying to sidestep that to avoid public scrutiny not only misses the point of the course, it also dismisses the danger caused to others by speeding.”

More traffic trouble for the Tory Government?

News of Braverman’s offence came after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was fined for his failure to wear a seatbelt last year. Within the last year, two of Braverman’s ministers at the Home Office were banned from driving for six months. The immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, was caught driving almost 30mph over the limit and the security minister, Tom Tugendhat, was caught driving while using a mobile phone.

> Green Party: Government’s “anti-cycling narrative” creates danger for cyclists

David Ward, the executive president of the Towards Zero Foundation, which campaigns to reduce road deaths across the world, also came out in criticism of the Home Secretary, stating politicians were “normalising” breaches in road safety.

He said: “There is a worrying trend, whether its Rishi Sunak’s failure to put on a seatbelt or now Suella Braverman, when senior politicians really ought to be setting a better example.”

He added: “Going on a course in public is part of the penalty – by trying to somehow make it private, she was in effect trying to mitigate the impact. This makes it doubly complacent.”

However, notorious lawyer acclaimed for earning ‘not guilty’ verdicts for celebrities charged with driving offences and outspoken and self-proclaimed road safety expert Mr Loophole, or Nick Freeman came to Braverman’s defence.

> Mr Loophole applauds police action against "vigilante cyclists" filming law-breaking drivers

Mr Loophole said: “On occasions the course providers contacted us and said, ‘I know you’re asking for such and such, would you mind if we have the course just exclusively for that particular person?’

“The reason behind it tends to be they want people attending the course to concentrate on the contents of the course and not on the people who are actually at the course.

“So if you’ve got a world class footballer or world class actor or musician, you don’t want people looking thinking, ‘oh wow, guess who’s on my course!’, they want to be tuning into what the course is about. So there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Can Braverman be forced to resign for a speeding offence?

Meanwhile, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), representing civil servants have released a statement: “Breaking the ministerial code doesn't appear so much to be a lapse of judgement as of a pattern of behaviour. Suella Braverman is quick to criticise civil servants when it suits her, but even quicker to ask for their help when she needs it.

“Civil servants' role is to deliver government policy not to act as her personal assistants. How many more lives will Rishi Sunak give her? This is double standards. If she was a PCS Union member she would not expect to be treated so leniently.”

> Government slammed for not informing public of Highway Code changes aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians just days before they come into effect

The Labour leadership has also called for investigation into the claims, and demanded that she should go if she broke ministerial rules. Braverman has already breached ethics before under the short-lived Liz Truss government and had to resign as Home Secretary back then, before being reappointed by Sunak.

Besides, there's already a precedent for ministers landing in hot waters for speeding offences. In the past, Labour MP for Peterborough Fiona Onasanya was ejected from parliament by a recall petition after being found guilty of perverting the course of justice in 2018, by lying to avoid a speeding fine.

The Lib Dem minister Chris Huhne also resigned from the coalition cabinet in 2012 and ultimately served time in prison over an arrangement in which his wife had taken speeding points on his behalf 10 years earlier.

Braverman, however, has claimed that she is “confident that nothing untoward happened”.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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92 comments

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Hirsute | 1 year ago
3 likes
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Tom_77 | 1 year ago
6 likes

How long can Sunak swerve the obvious on Braverman’s speeding?

Quote:

It may not be the most egregious breach of the ministerial code. Certainly not by Braverman’s usual gung-ho standards. But she still broke the code. Integrity, professionalism and accountability. Just words. The same old stuff from a tired administration that doesn’t even recognise how it has managed to corrupt itself.

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
4 likes

Why didn't she wear a mask?  Or take off the one she's wearing?

This is just another part of the endless tory story of:

                     "One rule for them, and a different rule for us."

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Browsie | 1 year ago
12 likes

Poor old cruella, think she's rather shot herself in the foot here, she tried to arrange a one to one speed awareness course rather than around perhaps 30 other people on the same course realising who she actually is, now the whole flippin country knows about it 🤔

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NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
9 likes

I used to be fascinated by stories like this but lately I'm finding it really hard to give a s**t.

She broke the speed limit like 90% of drivers who are selfish, dangerous idiots.

She tried to use her position to gain a personal advantage like 90% of politicians who are selfish, self serving liars.

She may or may not resign (again) and you may or may not feel better for a moment. The world will keep on turning, average peoples lives will keep getting made harder by those in charge and cyclists will keep getting killed by drivers like the hit and run victim in B'ham last Tuesday who's 2 year old son will probably still be in infants school when the killer legally gets back behind the wheel.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
4 likes

She has done far worse that speeding after all. Telling endless mistruths and peddling brexit fantasies is her main offence - but then they all do that too. 

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Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago
0 likes

Of course the debate is over the ministerial code rather than her dangerous actions...

As for Mr Loophole's loophole: install confession booths in the classroom and have people reveal their identity at the end, that way nobody is distracted from the class and nobody escapes the punishment.

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago
4 likes
Car Delenda Est wrote:

Of course the debate is over the ministerial code rather than her dangerous actions...

Of course it is, why wouldn't it be?

I think it's far more important to make sure that she is a competent law-maker and government official than a competent driver. She has the potential to cause far more damage as one (of 15) cabinet members or one (of 650) MPs than one (of 41.5m) drivers.

Clearly the newsworthy aspect here is that she breached the ministerial code with a blatant conflict of interest.

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Hirsute | 1 year ago
8 likes

Andy Cox:

In the last 24hrs, there has been a lot of debate re ‘speeding’. Speeding is a leading cause of fatal crashes, destroys life & leaves bereaved families with lifelong impact. I hope the debate moves onto the offence itself, the risk it posed & why speeding is utterly unacceptable.
 
 

 

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the little onion replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
7 likes

Radio 4 had Nigel "drink driving isn't a crime" Havers on to discuss this case!!!!!

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OnYerBike | 1 year ago
2 likes

My two cents:

I'm probably more concerned that she was caught speeding - I would tend to agree with Simon Munk's comments that it is disappointing to see any MP, let alone the former Attorney General and current Home Secretary, committing crimes - either because they see speeding as a non-crime, or because they see themselves above the law (or both). It is pure hypocrisy. 

I've never done a speed awareness course, but I will acknowledge that it does not seem an entirely level punishment for public figures compared to most people - everyone might do it "in public", but I imagine most people are in a room full of strangers and are highly unlikely to be recognised or ever come into contact with those strangers again. If I ever do end up on such a course, I can guarantee you it will not be reported in the newspapers. 

That said, it does seem like an abuse of power to try and get civil servants to arrange that for her - their job is to serve the country, not serve the ministers personally. If she had personally instructed a lawyer (I'm sure the one quoted in the article would have been available) to make the arrangements on her behalf, then that would have been preferrable. 

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Car Delenda Est replied to OnYerBike | 1 year ago
1 like

Not just her personally, this was mostly meant to protect the party so definitely against the ministerial code.

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Mungecrundle | 1 year ago
4 likes

If I try and read this situation without too much anti politician blood frenzy then all she really asked is if there was some way for public figures to do a one to one driver improvement course and was told that was not an option. She didn't try and get the NIP overturned or for a free pass to state that she had attended but didn't and in the end she opted for points and a fine which everyone has a right to do.

Not sure I can get too upset over this beyond her boss making a clear statement that members of his government should not even think about enquiring if there are other options for them in such circumstances.

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the little onion replied to Mungecrundle | 1 year ago
6 likes

Alternatively, she asked the non-political civil service to try and get her out of a personal problem, which is decidedly not their job. It's her job to arrange punishment/correction for her crimes, not civil servants'. 

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Rich_cb replied to the little onion | 1 year ago
1 like

She did do that.

The civil service said no and then she asked someone else.

It's hardly Watergate.

I'm with Mungecrundle that this is being blown out of all proportion.

The worst part of it all is that actually committing the offence of speeding isn't even considered an issue in 99% of the media coverage.

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Rendel Harris replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
7 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

She did do that. The civil service said no and then she asked someone else. It's hardly Watergate.

The person responsible for the fair and equal application of the law of the land asked the civil servants appointed to assist her in the fair and equal application of the law of the land asked said civil servants if they could help manipulate a legal process for her own advantage and convenience, yeah, nothing to be concerned about here. I expect it would be OK with you if the Health Secretary asked their civil servants if they could help bump them up a waiting list, or the Chancellor asked his officials to help him minimise his tax burden, provided the civil servants said no. And the minister in question was a Tory, of course.

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Rich_cb replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes

She asked if it was possible to do the course in private.

She was told no.

I'm not seeing the major scandal here.

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chrisonabike replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
1 like

Rich_cb wrote:

She asked if it was possible to do the course in private. She was told no. I'm not seeing the major scandal here.

FWIW BBC has "Suella Braverman says she is "confident nothing untoward happened", but has refused to be drawn over whether she asked civil servants to arrange a one-to-one speed awareness course for her."

They're right about her avoiding the question.

It doesn't seem to be up there with Dominic or Boris - or indeed her last time round.  But whether this dies away likely just depends on what other stories tomorrow brings us...

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Rendel Harris replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
7 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

She asked if it was possible to do the course in private. She was told no.

This is not actually the case. If she had simply asked, as a matter of factual enquiry and advice and in general terms, if it were possible for her to have a one-to-one course (as you state) that would be one thing (people would still be entitled to ask why the Home Secretary and former Attorney General needed advice on such a basic and easily-Googleable point and why she thought it appropriate to use her civil servants for personal advice). However, she didn't: she asked her civil servants if they could arrange for her to have a one-to-one course. That's very different and a clear breach of the Ministerial Code which forbids ministers from using the civil service to assist in personal matters. 

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Rich_cb replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes

She asked if the civil servants could make an enquiry on her behalf. The enquiry being 'Is it possible to do the course in private? '.

The civil servants said that they couldn't make that enquiry for her.

That's the sum of the matter. As I said, it's hardly Watergate.

It's only because Braverman is the bête noire of a certain section of the media that this is getting any traction at all.

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Rendel Harris replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
6 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

She asked if the civil servants could make an enquiry on her behalf. The enquiry being 'Is it possible to do the course in private? '. The civil servants said that they couldn't make that enquiry for her. That's the sum of the matter.

If that is the sum of the matter, why did she refuse eleven times in the House of Commons today to answer the question "Did you ask civil servants to arrange a private speed awareness course for you?" Surely "I asked civil servants if private speed awareness courses were an option and was told no [or "that they couldn't answer that question for me"] so decided to pay the fine. At no point did I ask any civil servant to arrange a private course for me." would be the reply if your version of events is correct?

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Rich_cb replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes

This is just getting into semantics now.

'Can private courses be arranged?'
'Can you arrange a private course?'

This is a nothing story.

In combination with the Raab investigation and the Sue Gray debacle it's starting to look like the civil service are not being quite as impartial as they pretend to be.

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Rendel Harris replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
6 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

This is just getting into semantics now. 'Can private courses be arranged?' 'Can you arrange a private course?'

For once I entirely agree with you, it is indeed about semantics, semantics being concerned with the meaning and truth of statements. There is a world of difference between "Is it an option for anybody to go on a one-to-one private course?" and "Can you, as my civil servant, arrange for me to go on a one-to-one private course?" The first is a simple enquiry regarding fact, the second is a request for a civil servant to arrange special treatment for a minister in a matter concerning an offence committed in her private life and is a clear breach of the ministerial code.

Once again, if she has done nothing wrong and it's perfectly innocent and straightforward behaviour, why did she refuse eleven times in the House of Commons to answer a simple question about it?

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Rich_cb replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes

Well I guess you'll have to wait and see exactly what form of words were used.

Personally I don't think it's much of a story either way.

Just the civil service trying to bring down another minister.

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Sniffer replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
3 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

Just the civil service trying to bring down another minister.

I am not sure that it is much of a story either, but I am not sure it is sensible to blame the civil service for all the stuff that is coming down on the heads of Ministers that are out of their depth.

It is sad that rather than look in the mirror, the politicians in power just look to blame someone else. 

Don't let them off the hook.

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Rich_cb replied to Sniffer | 1 year ago
0 likes

I used to be less cynical but the whole Sue Gray affair has really knocked the scales from my eyes.

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Sniffer replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
4 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

I used to be less cynical but the whole Sue Gray affair has really knocked the scales from my eyes.

Really. 

Most of the dirt being thrown at her is so that Johnson can blame someone else for his inability to do his job properly, his lack of integrity and the fact that he blew a large majority.

Her report on Partygate was very mild.  He kind of survived Partygate using it as a screen and then messed up, yet again, on Pinchergate.

I am surprised at you being taken in by the obfiscation by that element of the Tory party and its backers.

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Rich_cb replied to Sniffer | 1 year ago
0 likes

You don't think it's slightly strange that the person who led an impartial investigation which helped end Boris' term as PM, and thus hugely boosted the election prospects of the Labour party, was then given a very well paid job in the Labour party?

There are serious question marks about when Labour made their approach too. IMHO that is orders of magnitude more serious than the Braverman fiasco.

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Sniffer replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
3 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

You don't think it's slightly strange that the person who led an impartial investigation which helped end Boris' term as PM, and thus hugely boosted the election prospects of the Labour party, was then given a very well paid job in the Labour party?

Not particularly.

It was Johnson that appointed her..... only after the first choice had to recluse himself as he wasn't squeaky clean himself on Partygate.

It is odd which scandals bring down politicians. Johnson could have gone for a lack of integrity and dishonesty (sacked from previous jobs more than once for dishonesty), but it turned out that the Chris Pincher appointment that did for him.

Partygate may have brought him down in time, there are still HoC processes underway, but Sue Gray's report didn't do that.

Johnson, and his backers, will blame anyone else but he was (and is) entirely unsuited to Public Office regardless of your view of his policies.

What brings the Home Secretary down is unclear as yet, but her unsuitability for Office will in the end bring her down.

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Rich_cb replied to Sniffer | 1 year ago
0 likes

I think the Pincher thing was just the first convenient scandal to justify the defenestration.

After the partygate report Boris was an electoral liability and the machinations began to orchestrate his removal.

The actual Pincher scandal was irrelevant. Any scandal would have resulted in the same outcome.

FWIW I don't think ongoing contact (including a financial inducement) between the Leader of the Opposition and the senior civil servant involved in an active investigation into the current PM can be dismissed lightly.

Neither party will confirm when contact began which leads to the conclusion that it began well before it should have done.

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