ROAD safety campaigners fought for years to get 20mph speed limits on Oxford’s residential streets, and in 2009 they won the fight.

But it wasn’t until a Freedom of Information request from the Oxford Mail “knocked down a police brick wall” three years later that the public discovered that police had not fined a single person for breaking the limit in all that time.

Now, officers fine more than 220 people a year for flouting the limits on city 20mph roads.

Looking back on the issue, Oxford city councillor Susanna Pressel said the Oxford Mail’s story had made a “huge difference”.

In 2012 we used an FOI to reveal that in the first three years after 20mph limits were introduced on the majority of city streets in 2009 police did not dish out a single fine.

In our FOI request we specifically requested communications between the then Chief Constable Sara Thornton and others regarding enforcing the limits.

We discovered an email she had sent to Roads Policing that March to say she was fed up of having to “fob off” councillors who were continually asking her how many people her force was actually fining.

She wrote in one email: “The issue is bubbling politically in Oxford and is a theme which the Oxford Mail returns to regularly.”

The force was forced to admit its paltry enforcement, and a later FOI revealed that in the rest of that year the force fined 168 speeding drivers.

Further FOI requests showed the figure rocketed to 256 the following year and the average annual figure stayed above 220.

Even then, police only fined motorists doing 32mph or more in a 20mph zone because a speed awareness course was not available to those breaking the lower limit.

But in June last year, following continued coverage by the Oxford Mail, police announced they would start fining drivers breaking 20mph speed limits by anything over 4mph.

An FOI request that month revealed the force had handed out a total 510 fines to drivers in Oxford since starting to enforce 20mph limits in 2012.

And on just one day in August that year police issued 70 speeding tickets to speeding motorists just in St Giles.

Ms Pressel, who had been one of the councillors Sara Thornton had “fobbed off” continually about enforcement, said she was delighted the Mail had “knocked down the police brick wall” on enforcement using the FOI Act.

The Labour councillor said: “It was a fantastic piece of work.

“The police can lack transparency and that can be very irritating if I have got people clamouring to have some enforcement and I come up against a brick wall.

“The Oxford Mail made a huge difference – there is no point having a law if it’s not being enforced.”

But she said putting limits on the Act would be “reasonable” if it stopped council’s officers wasting time on “vexatious” requests from members of public “obsessed” with certain issues.