Examination of witnesses
(Questions 480 - 499)
WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER
and MR RICHARD
480. The Committee have just spent some
time in Brussels. I would not test their temper on their view
of European legislation.
(Mr Brunstrom) I hear what you say, Chairman.
(Mr Stevens) Just as well!
(Mr Brunstrom) Nonetheless, the problem is a domestic
one and it is about how much resource as a society we wish to
put into tracing the people who make life difficult. One can make
a perfectly valid argument that the 91 per cent is successful.
If you wish us to go further we will need a small change to the
481. It discredits the whole system if certain
people get away with it regularly, does it not?
(Mr Brunstrom) Yes.
482. Although you are blaming the registration
of the vehicles, how far is it really the case that within the
police force traffic is considered to be a second-class activity
and real policing is something else? So when it comes down to
enforcement of that nine per cent it is given a very low priority
within individual police stations, is it not?
(Mr Manning) Traffic is an integral part of the
general panoply of policing and that is reinforced by the Home
Secretary's instruction and direction and ministerial priorities
to chief constables which he has just issued. What we are realising
increasingly is that the roads policing as opposed to traffic
policing is a very effective weapon against a whole range of criminality
and we do require officers to have certain skills and competence
to enable them to be able to operate in that environment. So it
is a very real part of the holistic approach of policing. Perhaps
I could build on that with regard to casualty reduction. The recent
Crime and Disorder Act has come in and we are currently conducting
throughout the country with local authorities surveys to look
at the crime disorder problems in an area. Again the Home Secretary
has clearly stated that he sees road issues, collision issues,
casualty issues, as being legitimately included in those crime
and disorder surveys. That will require the local borough in London
or the authority outside London and the police to draw together
their policing plan which will then address those issues and then
I hope that will get us to the point you were raising about local
concerns about certain issues in areas.
(Mr Stevens) I speak as a Chief Constable in Northumbria
for five years before becoming an HMI for two years and then this
present job. I think there is a certain amount of disillusionment
sometimes in traffic patrol officers that they are not specifically
there to deal with traffic. That can no longer be the case. Traffic
intertwines with crime and as Members of Parliament you would
not be getting best value, neither would the public, if a traffic
officer solely concentrated on traffic. The business of them being
second class citizens, sir, I do not believe that is the case.
483. How much do you find that the person
who ends up with the points on their driving licence actually
is the driver and how far do you find that other people are coming
forward to take responsibility for driving the vehicle at that
(Mr Brunstrom) Provided we have identified the
right person, the only person in those circumstances who can get
points on their licence is the person who committed the offence.
If the owner of the vehicle refuses to tell us who was driving
then that is in itself a criminal offence but it does not result
in the owner getting points on their licence. Only the person
who drives through the speed camera or the road traffic light
gets convicted and points on their licence. I do not have that
figure to hand, but it would be very close to 100 per cent. We
have very good systems for identifying who it was provided people
comply with the law. The difficulty is the nine per cent of people
who refuse to comply. 91 per cent is the figure and it is a strong
position to be in.
484. I want to follow up the Chairman's
question about the White Paper. How serious an omission is it
that the White Paper is not addressing integration within the
(Mr Manning) The environmental issues one recognises
are of real concern and they are of very real concern to police
officers who have to operate in that environment themselves. We
understand very well the need to have proper control over those
types of issues and what the police service would want to do is
work properly in partnership with the agencies charged with controlling
those aspects and provide them with the service that they wish
to have in order to discharge their responsibilities.
485. Have you told Mr Prescott your concerns,
that you have been omitted from the White Paper proposals?
(Mr Manning) I am sorry, I cannot answer that
486. Should not ACPO be doing it? The Chairman
has identified that there is a real need there. You have also
explained it. Should you not be telling somebody about it?
(Mr Manning) We have explained to the DETR our
preparedness and willingness to work very much with the agencies.
What we are then going on and saying to them is please give us
that broader power to enable us to use police resources but not
necessarily for constables to carry out that particular function.
(Mr Brunstrom) I think the bigger emission from
the White Paper is the concept of integrated safety management.
That is a substantial hole in the White Paper. 3,000 people die
on the roads in this country every year. Any integrated transport
policy ought to be addressing safety as one of the fundamental
pillars. It is not there and it ought to be and ACPO has taken
that up with the DETR and will continue to do so.
487. If, for instance, a father who is a
cripple has a clean driving licence and the son has got nine penalty
points and he indicates as the keeper that it was his father that
was driving, are you saying that you are able to track it down
and convict the son?
(Mr Brunstrom) Very often, yes, we would be. Do
not forget that there is a photograph in these cases.
488. But the photograph is from behind.
(Mr Brunstrom) Not necessarily. The photograph
could easily be from the front. It is relatively simple to determine
who is driving a motor vehicle in actual fact, particularly backed
up with photographic evidence. I cannot pretend that people do
not lie. If one does, of course, you area committing very very
serious offences indeed and it takes it beyond the realm of being
a simple motoring offence with a £40 fixed penaltyand
I repeat most people are prepared to pay thatinto very
serious criminal offences for which people will go to prison.
I know it does happen because we have recorded examples of people
doing it and convicting them and they go to prison for perjury
or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice for several years.
Very few people are prepared to take that risk when all that is
at stake is £40 and three points on your licence. Clearly
we do not catch everybody, but we do catch the very very large
489. There is in these circumstances a fairly
significant civil liberties element to that aspect which we have
been assured in the past was not the case in that it was illegal
to actually photograph from the front.
(Mr Brunstrom) No, that is not the case. We do
photograph from the front and our experience so far is that that
is no longer an issue with the public. We are not facing complaints
from the public about the way that we enforce the law.
490. Is that because they do not know that
you are doing it? Forgive me, but the Committee went to look at
Scandinavian schemes, Norway particularly, and we were concerned
about the implications because in effect, without being unkind,
if you can identify the driver you can also identify who is sitting
beside the driver.
(Mr Brunstrom) Most photographs are still taken
from the rear. Obviously for a red light offence it would have
to be. We are talking here about people who have broken the law.
A photograph is taken because the law has been broken. We are
not talking about innocent motorists going about their business,
we are talking about people who are dangerously exceeding the
speed limit such that somebody else's life is at risk. One of
the benefits, as Mr Manning identified, of the police doing this
is that we are a publicly accountable agency responsible to the
courts of this country and quite right too, so we should be. The
photographs that are taken are available for the offenders to
see and to challenge and so they should be. Nothing we do is done
secretively. We have the support of the courts in the action we
have taken. Clearly there is a civil liberties argument. I do
not think that is properly one for me. I am satisfied that our
ethical position is totally appropriate and it is not receiving
any significant degree of public comment never mind opposition.
Mr Donohoe: As the
Chairman has said, that is the first time I have heard anybody
say what you have just said in this country because we have had
police officers here before who have said the exact opposite and
for the first time you are telling me that there are photographs
being taken of individuals for a Road Traffic Act conviction and
that is new, it is fresh, it has never been something that has
been said to me by any police officer before.
491. They have got the point. This is not
the moment to pursue this, particularly if you are quite happy
that you are an ethical police force
(Mr Manning) We come into images now and ownership
of images and a whole range of issues, of video cameras and those
sort of things.
Chairman: I think
you have given us some interesting information the Committee will
want to pursue.
492. A couple of months ago I joined a beat
officer from Wallington station. We went out on our bikes together.
What do you think should be done generally to increase the number
of journeys by bike?
(Mr Stevens) I used to be in Cambridgeshire and
there was a fair amount of heat when roads were closed for bikes.
I am a firm believer in bicycles myself, so I announce a personal
interest. I do believe that the capital needs to have a far better
way of travelling in and around it and I think bikes are that.
My own view is that the advent of the Mayor, the GLA and a caucus
group with a strong political steer will allow this capital to
take on some of the major problems of traffic and I believe the
cycling problem will be part of it. I do not honestly believe
that there will be a real thrust to increase the quality of life
for those people who are using bikes and walking within the centre
of the capital because it needs political leadership to do that.
So until that, sir, I think we have to wait.
Mr Brake: Do you think
there is anything more that can be done from an enforcement point
of view? Certainly when I go out on a bike I feel extremely vulnerable.
Car drivers are excessively aggressive. I tend to respond in an
aggressive fashion to the drivers.
Chairman: Surely not.
Whoever heard of an aggressive Liberal?
493. What more can the police do to make
cyclists feel safer?
(Mr Stevens) In all honesty I think that is a
difficult one. The only way that safety is going to be enforced
is by having dedicated cycle lanes. I think you are putting yourself
at peril if you are taking on big lorries and cars when you get
cross. I do not think there is much we can do at the present time
in terms of enforcement to make it any better.
Mr Brake: It is safe
in traffic jams to take them on.
494. Have you undertaken any cost-benefit
analysis of giving increased priority to enforcing traffic management
(Mr Manning) There are clear advantages with regard
to enforcing traffic management measures with regard to the running
of the economy and in London our road policing strategy actually
recognises the police have got a role to play.
495. So you have not done a cost-benefit
(Mr Manning) No, we have not, but we recognise
496. We all recognise the benefits, Mr Manning,
that was not what I was asking you. Policemen on the whole like
you to answer the questions that they ask you.
(Mr Stevens) It has been calculated by London
Transport that the delays to operations and passengers by lack
of enforcement of that particular part of the law costs London
Transport £15 million a year.
(Mr Brunstrom) I am not quite sure whether I am
addressing directly your question. There is a very substantial
robust cost-benefit analysis for road safety issues for traffic
497. Which is whose?
(Mr Brunstrom) This was done by the Police Research
Group under the Home Office.
498. And you will leave us a copy of this?
(Mr Brunstrom) Certainly. There are very substantial
sums to be saved.
499. The evidence you gave earlier was that
you have not got the resources because the costs are not there
to take all these things to court. For the record, are you saying
that you would be able to do total enforcement if the fixed penalty
fine was £60 instead of £40?
(Mr Manning) Not if the fine was £40 but
if the fine was £40 plus an administrative charge. We do
not want this to be seen as any form of income generation for
the police service. This is something where we would want to legitimately
cover the costs that we have incurred.