A NEW law banning smoking in cars carrying children will not be a ‘police priority’ according to the organisation which represents rank-and-file officers.
Since Thursday (October 1), smokers can land a £50 fixed fine if they are caught with anyone in their vehicle below the age of 18.
Russell Yeoman, chairman of West Mercia Police Federation, said the ban was ‘well intended’ as it was designed to protect children from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.
But with Bill Longmore, police and crime commissioner for the area, fearing more cuts will be made to the force this autumn, Mr Yeoman told The Observer officers had more areas to focus their efforts in a bid tackle crime.
“While at some stage there will be prosecution for this, I don’t ever see it being a policing priority and to be honest I think police have got enough to do in this day and age than actively seeking to prosecute these types of offences,” he said.
“Bill Longmore mentioned recently about the likely cuts to numbers in the police services in West Mercia and if that happens we are going to have to priorities more and more.
“So really and truly I think the public would rather have us dealing with crime matters, like burglaries, car thefts, fraud and sexual offences, rather than spending time dealing with these matters and as there are fewer numbers I think that’s going to be more important.”
Mr Yeoman said he agreed with the National Police Council which said drivers would be educated rather than prosecuted.
And Supt Daryn Elton, head of operation for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police, said they would be taking a ‘non-confrontational’ approach.
“Our Operational Policing Units have the primary responsibility to enforce road safety, these new rules will be incorporated into current duties and we will enforce by taking an educational, advisory and non-confrontational approach to the new legislation ensuring we continue to protect people from harm,” he said.
Coun Marcus Hart, Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet member for health and well-being, said the new legislation coinciding with Stoptober created a ‘great opportunity’ for smokes in the county to quit.
“We welcome the new smoke-free cars legislation and believe that it will have a significant impact on protecting children from the dangers of second-hand smoke,” he added.