POLICE leaders have expressed concern over proposals to penalise drivers who break the speed limit by 1mph, saying it is 'out of touch' and the current scheme is 'not soft on drivers'.

The comments were in response to Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, of West Mercia Police, who suggested ending the 10% 'buffer' over speed limits.

Existing guidance suggests police should only issue penalties for drivers caught at 10% plus 2mph over the limit - for example 35mph in a 30mph zone.

According to national reports, Mr Bangham, National Police Chiefs' Council lead on road policing, said in a speech at the Police Federation Roads Policing Conference on Tuesday: "They should not come whinging to us about getting caught. If booked at 35 or 34 or 33 (in a 30mph zone) that cannot be unfair because they are breaking the law."

He also said speeding awareness courses were being used too widely instead of penalty points and fines.

Chief Inspector Ian Hanson, chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation, criticised the speech, saying it is 'alienating those communities we are there to serve'.

He added: "I find it absolutely staggering that the effective policy lead for policing should show himself to be so out of touch.

"Mr Bangham says motorists should stop 'whingeing' ... but if I got a speeding ticket in his home force of West Mercia for doing 1mph over the speed limit I think I would have a lot to whinge about - living in an area where in the last year violent crime has gone up 17%, public order offences are up 38% and overall crime is up 5% ... and my Chief Constable seemed so distracted and intent on going backwards."

However, road safety campaigners supported the proposals, saying that driving faster than speed limits is dangerous.

Rod King, founder of the 20's Plenty for Us group, said: "Where there's a buffer you have effectively changed the speed limit.

"If you are going 35 in a 30mph zone, then you are breaking the law - that's it."

Nick Freeman, a leading traffic lawyer dubbed Mr Loophole, said: "Mr Bangham is trying to criminalise hard-working people struggling to get from A to B on the country's congested roads network.

"Speedometers can be inaccurate and so can speed cameras. That's why the police introduced a tolerance level.

"Drivers are now becoming so obsessed with looking at their speedometers they are failing to concentrate on the road ahead, which is leading to accidents.

"However, for the police, motorists are an easy target and, as everything is now done robotically by camera, officers are rarely seen on the roads."