POLICE moved to silence a website which names and shames bad drivers – less than two hours after asking for help with a hit-and-run probe.
Photographs posted on Edinburgh’s Worst Drivers showed a silver car allegedly leaving the scene of an accident in Craighall Road, Newhaven, after the driver had apparently damaged another vehicle.
Officers used Twitter to ask for the pictures to be passed on as “evidence”, only to later demand they were taken down because they apparently breached the driver’s human rights.
Witnesses said the driver of the silver car had attempted to park behind a Land Rover but had instead reversed into it.
The passenger was then seen craning out of the open door to inspect the damage before the vehicle made off “quickly” from the scene.
Shortly after the pictures were tweeted by Edinburgh’s Worst Drivers, Police Scotland said: “E-mail any evidence you have that may assist investigation to local policing team.”
But less than two hours later, a second police tweet warned: “Please refrain from publishing pictures like this. The driver has a right to a fair trial under article 6 of the ECHR [European Convention of Human Rights].”
The website administrator said he assumed he had been performing an important civic duty by helping bring irresponsible drivers to justice, as well as helping the driver of the damaged car.
He said: “Police Scotland’s first tweet indicates they welcome the pictures to assist officers and 90 minutes later I get a telling off asking me to refrain from publishing these pictures.
“Right now I’m sitting on the fence wondering if they want my help.
“I always thought Edinburgh’s Worst Drivers had the support of Police Scotland.
“Obviously I don’t expect everyone to approve of every tweet I make, however on this occasion, as well as shaming a driver, I was trying to help the driver of the damaged vehicle.”
Professor Gavin Phillipson, a legal expert from Durham University, questioned police claims that the driver’s human rights had been breached.
He said: “They are not correct in what they are saying. You do get the police doing some very odd things. This is really none of their business.
“It is not their job to go around enforcing things like this.
“Perhaps they see the website as a form of vigilantism because they see it as their job to catch criminals.”
Mr Phillipson also stressed that the only potential breach was to the driver’s privacy.
There would only be a legal issue, he said, if the driver had been arrested or charged in connection with a driving offence, which was not the case.
Had the driver been charged with failing to stop at the scene of an accident or failing to report an accident there would be a limit to what could be published by the website.
But the governing law would be the Contempt of Court Act, not the European Convention of Human Rights.
Mr Phillipson added that breach of article six of the ECHR was a “civil rather than a criminal matter” and that citizens were not bound by it.