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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.
So it is meant for any report, which is disappointing to see.

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.

You can download a copy of the ACPO letter here >

I Love Taxi Drivers

November 21, 2011 — 11 Comments

Ok I don’t really, the majority of my worst incidences have been with taxi drivers and they seem to be invincible! From my experience the police pass any reports to the PCO and the PCO hold their hands up and say it’s up to the police to sort it out.

The public carriage office in its current state is a bit of a shambles, I have been provided a small amount of inside knowledge from someone who was involved with the PCO from a day-to-day basis on a professional level. I won’t go into detail at present, it would be a very long post but the end result is taxi drivers in London are basically untouchable and a few of them act as if they know that.

I’ve reported various incidences of varying degrees to the PCO, in every case I’ve not had a positive response, most of them result in a ‘It’s not our job to the police the roads’ and a few result in ‘we can’t view youtube videos so it’s your word against theirs’. It normally ends there, they are very understaffed and just don’t have time to look into these cases in enough detail.

I’ve tried reporting it to the Police but the MET handed over regulation and licensing of hackney carriages to TFL in 2000 and they seem to try to push the reports on TFL/PCO.

So far I’ve gotten not a single result from anything that has happened with a black cab. If you follow what I’ve published on youtube then you will know there are some real shockers.
I have had a few incidences which I’ve been told will be put on the driver’s record, but note these where not confirmed and the information did not come from someone who worked at the PCO. So I have no way to be certain.

Transport for London have provided a handy document that outlines the laws which govern hackney carriages and it states

In this Abstract, ‘The Licensing Authority’ means Transport for London (TfL) which will exercise the duties imposed by the London Cab Order 1934 as amended by the Greater London Authority Act 1999.

So it is up to TFL/PCO to apply the laws in that document. In the document is the Standard Scale, which is the different fines that TFL/PCO are to apply to drivers when the break various laws, unfortunately the fines are maximum and do not have to be that exact amount.

  • Level 1 = £200
  • Level 2 = £500
  • Level 3 = £1,000
  • Level 4 = £2,500
  • Level 5 = £5,000

Lets highlight a few of the laws and what fines should be applied to the drivers that break them.

39. Various acts of misbehaviour by taxi driver (Act of 1843 s28; Act of 1831 s 56)

(1) The following offences are punishable by penalty (Level 1) or two months imprisonment:

(a) Wanton or furious driving.

(b)  Causing hurt or damage to any person by carelessness or wilful misbehaviour.

(c)  Drunkenness during employment.

(d)  Use of insulting or abusive language during employment.

(e)  Use of insulting gestures during employment.

(f)  Any misbehaviour during employment.

(2)  The following offences are punishable by penalty (Level 1 )

(a)  Injuring or endangering the life, limbs or property of any persons by intoxication, wanton or furious driving or any other wilful misconduct.

(b)  Using abusive or insulting language or rude behaviour towards any person.

(c)  Assaulting or obstructing any police officer in the execution of his duty.

(3)  This type of behaviour is also contrary to laws of general application, for example the Public Order Act 1986, carrying where appropriate heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

So it is up to TFL/PCO to deal with drivers who; drive dangerously, injury someone, damage someones property, swear at someone, use insulting gestures.

In several case I have been sworn at, threatened and had people driving dangerously around me. So that would mean that several drivers should have gotten fines but instead they may have a mark on their record or they got away with it.

I guess I will have to push the PCO next time I have an incident with a taxi and get them to properly deal with the driver. At present it’s a joke and I get the feeling that taxi drivers are currently untouchable which is a problem when some of them think you shouldn’t be on the road and they are king.

I probably wouldn’t have uploaded this if I didn’t see the coppers as the camera doesn’t catch the driver on the phone whilst moving in the car. But the driver did admit to using his phone whilst driving for a brief moment.

Great timing by the local police officers!

RTC 16.12.10

June 23, 2011 — 5 Comments

It’s snowing, the ground is wet and traffic is backed up. I’m cycling in the bus lane and traffic up ahead starts moving but I miss a set of cars not moving at the start of a side road. The result is a car driving through a gap and into the side road, going straight across the bus lane without checking. It ended with me landing on the bonnet of the car with my arm taking my full weight which flexed the bonnet so much that my arm hit the engine block.

The police attended the scene and the driver spoke very little english. At the time the driver claimed that he didn’t see any lights on my bicycle, despite my bicycle laying in the street with the 900 lumen magicshine light and 240 lumen hope vision 1 light blaring on to the ground, lets not also forget the helmet mounted torch that I have which was shining in his eyes. The obvious problem is the driver didn’t look, so of course he couldn’t see.

An independent witness came forward (the driver of a vehicle that was waiting to leave the side road) and his statement matched my side of the story, which was also backed up by the video footage I had.

You would think that having video footage of the event would make everything plain sailing. Oh how wrong could you be. First I was told by the case manager that video evidence could not be used.

it is not something we would be able to use in court. This is due to the fact
it would not be seen as independent evidence and an argument could be
made to the effect that the footage could have been tampered with.

My response to that..

In at least 2 cases in 2010 video evidence was used in court to secure
convictions against vehicle drivers, they where recorded using similar
video equipment by cyclists.

My video evidence matches the statements that me, the vehicle driver and
a witness gave to the Police that attended the scene. I had not seen the
video before giving my statement and neither of the witness had viewed
or know about it.
This video evidence should not be dismissed due to the fact that an
argument could be made to the effect that it could have been tampered
with. As it clearly shows that the driver crossed across a bus lane
without checking to see if anything was in it. I have been advised that
if this is to be dismissed, it should be done so by a magistrate or
jury.

That was not the end of my issues. The MET’s video evidence/surveillance rooms are not capable of playing digital videos in modern h.264 formats. So they where not able to play the video that I had sent them. That in its self is quite frustrating. It ended up with one of them playing it on a personal laptop. How they then got it into a playable format to be used in court I do not know.

The case went to court nearly 7 months after the incident and I heard about the results yesterday, the driver was charged with Careless or Inconsiderate driving, got a £350 fine, 6 points on their license and ordered to pay £100 court fees. That is certainly a good result.

All that is left now is for me to claim back the cost of the damages from his insurance company.

With more and more road users using video equipment to record their journeys in case of an accident, it is important to have a little bit of understanding of what is involved when using it to prove what happened.

A section of video footage only shows what happened during that section of time. I’ve had many people mention that a driver would only do ‘that’ if they were provoked. I don’t leave anything out of my videos on youtube and I never sensor sound. I’m open and honest about all interactions I have.

I have had various interactions with the police over the years of recording, all are fairly good. Most of my dealings have been with Roadsafe London and I can honestly say I’m happy with the results from that. It’s simple for me as I just need to fill out a short online form and include a link to the video. The police will most often send a letter to the owner of the vehicle explaining the situation and sometimes include a link to the video. Someone has been educated and that at the end of the day is my goal.

The problem any road user will face when submitting footage to the police in a more serious case is it’s still fairly uncommon for people to record and the digital formats we use are often hard to play on the police systems. This results in a lot of time wasted time in them even being able to view it.

It doesn’t end there, if the footage is of use then it has be made into something which can be used as evidence, this is going to mean at least putting the footage on to several discs to supply to each party involved in a court case and in some cases analysing the footage to see if it has been tampered with. This is quite a lengthy process and requires specific equipment which is used to process all CCTV and video evidence for a specific area (quite a large one) and only trained people can use this. So it’s a costly and lengthy task and one which will only be taken if the Police feel that the incident is worth pursuing in the case of public interest and if they believe the CPS will push for a prosecution.

I often see many people stating that they got a camera in case of an accident, this is not only the wrong message that we are sending out (it’s not dangerous to cycle in the UK, it has its ups and downs) but it also doesn’t make the process any easier and in most cases people’s expectations of what can happen to a driver after they cut you up, left hooked you etc.. is normally out of proportion.

As a side note. I said above ‘it’s not dangerous to cycle in the UK it has its ups and downs’. Obviously my videos sometimes show that there are some real idiots on the roads. You need to take into consideration how many miles per year I do and how many vehicles I have interactions with. In reality it’s probably less than 1% of vehicle drivers that I have a problem with.