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Do the British police play silly games with people’s cars?


One of the most scandalous allegations about the British police is periodically made by people “in the know” in pubs and clubs. They will tell you that officers sometimes treat the British motorway system as a huge snooker table, stopping and questioning innocent motorists according to the colours of their vehicles.

Allegedly, bored traffic cops will score points by pulling over a red car, then a “colour” (a yellow, green, brown, blue, pink or black car), then another red vehicle, and so on. When all 15 reds have been “potted”, the cops go for the colours in sequence, aiming for the highest “break”. It is claimed that the motorists involved are usually unaware that they are part of a naughty little game.

Theoretically, police officers could also play “snookers” by intercepting other officers as they try to stop unwitting motorists – which could lead to some reckless driving reminiscent of The Sweeney.

One factor that makes this story rather implausible is the scarcity of cars of certain colours on Britain’s roads. As they clear up the colours, the officers might have their work cut out finding a brown car, for example, and they will usually struggle to find a pink car – unless Parker has taken Lady Penelope out in her posh motor again, or Elvis Presley is alive again and whizzing around in his pink Cadillac.

And how do the accused respond? The police deny all the charges. Motorway snooker is, apparently, the stuff of fantasy. “It is nothing more than an urban myth,” declares Chief Constable Mick Giannasi, a senior spokesman for road policing in England and Wales. “It has been circulating on and off for about 10 years, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is any substance to it. The reality is that we increasingly base our decisions on intelligence, and most of the cars we stop have been identified through technological means like automatic number-plate readers, or because the driver draws attention to themselves by the way they are driving or the condition of their vehicle.” 

© 2014 Tony Barrell

September 19, 2014

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About the Author

Tony Barrell is a pop historian, journalist, editor and Londoner who has spent much of his life interviewing musicians. He has written many major articles for The Sunday Times and other publications. His 2017 work The Beatles on the Roof is the first book to be published about the Fab Four’s famous 1969 rooftop concert.

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