Appalling treatment by police and authorities


We received a letter from reader Geoff this week, which we just had to share with you, and we are curious to hear whether anyone else has had a similar experience.

Here’s his letter.

On March 30 2017 I was driving through the Herault village of Poilhes on the D37, heading towards Capestang.

As I was leaving the village I noticed a police car behind me so I pulled in to let them pass, but it was me they wanted to speak to.

There were two of them – a man and a woman.

They informed me I had crossed a white “stop” line without actually stopping.

They also informed me I would be receiving a penalty notice of €18-20 – I don’t remember exactly the number they quoted, but it was no more than €20.  I produced my (French) driving licence (Permis de Conduire) which has my full address (domicile) – and they studied it.

The police officers were not carrying the usual block of notices to be filled in and handed to the motorist – so when they allowed me to drive on they gave me no paperwork – just the verbal statement that a penalty notice would be arriving within a week.

A week went by and no notice arrived.

A month went by and no notice: so I assumed that the stopping and lecture had just been as a warning.

It was not until March 8 2018, 11 months and 7 days after this incident, that I received anything at all. 

On March 8 2018 I received an “amende forfitaire” from the Department of Hérault, Finance office in Montpellier.  This “amende” claimed €375 without giving details. Together with the “amende” was a copy of a charge from my bank, Caisse d’Epargne, freezing €375.

I replied to Herault asking for details of an offence as none was specified and I had no idea what it referred to. It seemed an awful lot for a speeding fine in Hérault!

The notice did mention the date of March 30 2017 but this was so far in the past I did not, immediately, connect it with the incident in Poilhes.

The notice also told me that in November 2017 this offence had gone to “judgment” but no further details were give.

No court house or other location was given.

I replied to Montpellier demanding details. Montpellier simply repeated the papers I had already received, but this time on the reverse of the “amende” was one word – “Poilhes”.  Then, I remembered the incident 11 months and 7 days previously.  But in all that 11 months nothing had been delivered to my home address – absolutely nothing. And no notice of the court hearing.

In a subsequent letter to Montpellier Finance I demanded to know why I had received nothing in the mail.

No reply.

My house, I told them, is the biggest or second biggest in Pouzols village. The front gate into the garden is clearly marked with a mail box and the address.

If mail from their department had been sent and for some reason La Poste had not been able to deliver it, it would have been returned to Montpellier. Did you receive it back? I asked.

No reply from Montpellier.

No mail – no notification(s) for 11 months – something just isn’t right here, I said.

No reply from Hérault.

I also asked why a fine, initially quoted as €18-20, had now “exploded” to €375.

No explanation from Hérault.

So, with no other options, I paid the €375.

Have any other readers had a similar experience?