Sir,

When staying in Clacton-on-Sea recently I left my car overnight on the street in front of the hotel without lights, having been told in the hotel that this is permissible (it is in most towns these days).

Lighting-up time was about 7.30 p.m.; a "fixed penalty" form was attached to the vehicle timed 3.05 a.m., stating an offence was committed in parking without lights, but the police constable had omitted to fill in the date on part 2 of the form, as instructed thereon.

I wrote to the Chief Superintendent explaining the circumstances (but omitting to mention that the date was not entered on Part 2), and suggesting that since the car had stood in the same place all evening someone must have seen it long enough before the fixed penalty form was posted and that a friendly warning and a request to move the car would have been more in keeping with British Law enforcement as we are taught to understand it.

Back came a Gestetnered letter saying that "after careful consideration" there was no reason for cancelling the "ticket" and with the stronger of two alternative paragraphs stating that if the £2 penalty was not paid within the prescribed time the matter would be dealt with in the Magistrates' Court, struck out.

I sent off the £2 penalty, pointing out that the fixed penalty form was incorrectly completed in that the date was omitted, suggesting that it was invalid and that my cheque should be returned. No doubt had I been wealthy enough to go to court with a QC I would have got away with it (viz. a certain steeplechase jockey whose licence was not suspended when found guilty of driving with an excess of alcohol in the blood on the grounds "a driving licence was necessary to earn his living"!), but all I got was a receipt for the £2.

I wrote again to the Chief Superintendent pointing out the omission of the date on Part 2 of the form, saying that I hoped he would be as unbending with the constable concerned as he had been with me, and expressing a view that our police force was rapidly becoming a punitive organisation rather than a protective one, and suggesting that his action did little to narrow the ever-widening rift between police and public.

To digress, I thoroughly endorse A. Tom Topper's remarks on slow drivers and dipped headlights, for being one who always dips his lights when coming up behind a slower vehicle I find there is insufficient light from the dipped lights of the car in front to indicate where the road goes to since the light is biased to the left and the overtaking driver is on the right-hand side of the road.

[Name and address supplied.—Ed.]