I came across some new guidelines that all Police forces across the UK may take on board and apply to any footage taken by a road user. This came about from the below incident. I did the usual and forwarded the video on to RoadSafe London, they deemed that this was serious enough to warrant prosecution that they forwarded it on to the Traffic Criminal Justice Unit (TCJU) in Sidcup.
The TCJU looked at the incident and responded with the following.
After careful consideration of all the available evidence it has been decided that the other party will not be prosecuted for the offence of Driving without Due Care.
I can confirm however that this office has written to the other party and reminded them of their responsibilities as a road user, to drive safely and comply with road traffic law.
I thought the incident was clear-cut driving without due care. Quiet clearly the driver didn’t need to encroach into the cycle lane or come anywhere near it (watch the vehicle behind). I’m happy with the action that was taken, it is all I expected when I sent it to RoadSafe London. But I wanted to know more about why they had chosen not to prosecute. So I asked the TCJU if they could let me know why.
The TCJU responded with the following
Following guidelines of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) we decided not to initiate proceedings on this occasion.
In relation to the concept of prosecution of mobile phone and other minor traffic offences from video submissions where and accident has not occurred, the ACPO Roads Policing following guidance form the Crown Prosecution Service and expert advice from Road Policing bodies, concluded that prosecution for offences based solely upon video evidence submitted by members of the public are unlikely. The value of evidence that has not been seized and stored according to the police business processes is limited form an evidential point of view.
The ACPO recommends that a suitable letter to the registered owner of the vehicle would be proportionate where the submitted clips meet a high enough standard.
I find it strange, that the Traffic Criminal Justice Unit class mobile phone use as a minor traffic offence. We all know from research that it is more dangerous than being drunk at the wheel.
First lets look at the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) guidelines on Driving without due care
A person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way he drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.
Well that seems fairly clear cut. I think that is well below what would be expected of a ‘competent and careful’ driver.
Now onto the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) guidelines, this took me several weeks to get hold of as it wasn’t a document that was already publicly available and the rest of it is a story for another day. The guidelines that were sent to me reference mainly an issue with a website policewitness.com and the fact that it is falsely advertising it self as having ties with the police, when it doesn’t. There is a small mention of video footage which I have quoted below, this is what the TCJU are referring to as ACPO guidelines.
In relation to the concept of prosecution of mobile phone and other minor traffic offences from video submissions from this company, I have sought guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and expert advice from Roads Policing colleagues.
It is the opinion of such experts that a prosecution for offences based solely upon this video evidence is unlikely and I have included further clarification in respect of this in Annex 1.
I also have concerns that such an approach effectively removes the level of discretion and professional judgement used by officers when dealing with incidents or offences of this type, the value of which cannot be underplayed.
A prosecution for an offence via a clip submitted in such a manner is unlikely and therefore the value of such clips should be taken as limited. If Forces are seeking an appropriate response, I would recommend that in most cases, a suitable letter to the registered owner of the vehicle would be proportionate where the submitted clips meet a high enough standard;
You may wish to consider making a clear policy decision not to act upon submitted video clips where the volume becomes unmanageable;
The idea of a ‘vigilante’ approach of members of the public standing by the side of the road with mobile phones and video cameras should be argued against for safety reasons.
And here crops up the ‘mobile phone and other minor traffic offences’, so it is Suzette Davenport Deputy Chief Constable, Northamptonshire Police, ACPO Lead For The Roads Policing Portfolio that thinks using a mobile phone whilst driving is a minor traffic offence.
Whilst the CPS and expert Roads Policing colleagues might think that it is unlikely that there will be a prosecution for an offence based solely on video evidence, the results that some video camera cyclists have had paint a different picture. There must have been at least 10 in the last 2 years.
It mentions concern for professional judgement used by officers, I don’t think anyone would question that, but why should that dismiss any video footage? The footage is information, information that you can analyse and use to make a professional judgement on a situation. Much better than a witness which may have forgotten something.
Is it not also telling that if people are concerned enough about the safety on our roads that they are making videos and reporting them to the Police, that there is a problem?
I contacted RoadSafe London about this and they forwarded my concerns to the Senior Manager of the Catford Traffic Criminal Justice Unit. Who said the following.
I have examined the case file and I believe the correct decision was made. It is of some comfort that you were not injured and that no damage was caused. Hopefully reminding the other party of their responsibilities will have the desired effect.
As I said before I’m happy with the action taken.
Whilst you are correct in that the advice was prompted by the activities of a private company who it would seem were flooding police forces with video material, the advice does clearly state that it is;“An approach which forces may wish to adopt when dealing with video evidence submitted by this company, members of the public or any third party company”As you can see the advice was intended to embrace all submissions falling into this category. I would agree that there have been instances such material has been used, but I would have to say that each case would have been dealt with on it’s merits and in close consultation with the CPS. This will continue to be the case. I think it is wrong to assume that the decision in this case represents a policy of rejecting submissions of video footage such as this without appropriate consideration.
He slightly misquoted what was said in the letter, that is minor. I’m pleased to see that he states each case will be looked at individually and with close consultation with the CPS, this is the way it was previously done and should continue to be. Are these guidelines adding anything to the standard process? Or are they using the power of the CPS and ACPO as a sort of reason why we aren’t prosecuting (I’m sure they can easily say why they aren’t, which is the confusing part)?
I contacted the officer marked as the contact on the ACPO guidelines and asked them if the letter was intended to be used for all forms of video footage taken or just those submitted by policewitness.com. I got the following response.
The letter gave advice on dealing with video clips submitted by members of the public or third party companies which identified ‘minor’ Road Traffic Offences. The letter detailed how video footage alone would be unlikely to lead to a prosecution in these cases without strong supporting evidence.
It is a real shame to see this coming from London. There has been some fantastic work put in by RoadSafe London over the past 3 years, which has seen a massive increase in reports coming in over that time due to a huge growth in road users getting video cameras. At the moment none of us truly expect more than a letter sent to the driver from the Police, which is something that was very much unheard of several years ago.
What we don’t want to read is the following
the concept of prosecution of mobile phone and other minor traffic offences
Using a mobile phone whilst driving is a minor traffic offence?
A prosecution for an offence via a clip submitted in such a manner is unlikely and therefore the value of such clips should be taken as limited
Should a clip be deemed less valuable because a prosecution is unlikely?
minor traffic offences from video submissions where
and[an] accident has not occurred
Effectively they are saying, unless you were hit by the vehicle, we are not interested in prosecuting the driver.
In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think this is going to change too much. It is still very rare for video footage to be used in a prosecution and where it has needed to be used, it has been. However it can easily have the effect that the Police do not care for road safety. As I said with so many road users up and down the country taking to the road with video cameras (not just cyclists) there must be something wrong with the way that some people are continually behaving on our roads. If they feel like they are being brushed aside because it is only ‘minor’, then they will lose faith in the Police force.