Exmination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)|
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
20. We want your views, Constable, not other
(Mr Brunstrom) Chairman, forgive me, it is relevant.
I must specify that I can only talk about safety and you cannot
justify raising a motorway speed limit on safety grounds. You
could on other grounds, which are beyond my remit.
21. In your evidence you refer to local transport
plans. Do you think that local transport plans should designate
appropriate speeds in their own areas?
(Mr Brunstrom) I think there is scope for them to
do so. Again, I must be careful not to speak beyond my expertise.
I very much welcome local transport plans, I think they have a
lot to offer speed management in areas. We would welcome transport
plans taking more account of that, because we feel now that there
needs to be a little bit more logic attached to speed limits and
it is not clear. It is obvious from the research evidence that
motorists are now in difficulty working out what the speed limit
is and why. It has become a little bit confusing. It would be
very welcome, I think, to have some more clarity in that, and
local transport plans have a part to play.
22. How do you think that could work? Do you
think it would work if in the local areas under those plans appropriate
schemes were decided locally and varied to suit local circumstances?
Or would that make things more confusing?
(Mr Brunstrom) Broadly speaking, the powers already
exist for that to happen. "Appropriate speed" is a very
appropriate phrase because it is clear that it is not easy to
defend every speed limit that we have, and many could justify
being raised in specific circumstances as well as many lowered.
If we are to retain public confidence in speed enforcement, speed
limits must be seen to be appropriate to the environment. Some
of them clearly are not and more needs to be done on that. It
cannot be done, I think, at a national level because the problem
is just too large. It needs to be in bite-sized chunks, and it
seems to us that a local transport plan with local input is an
appropriate way to do that.
23. How important do you think it is that people
understand the reason for speed restrictions and accept that it
is right to lower speed? How much does that matter compared to
the impact of the deterrent, of what happens if you get caught
(Mr Brunstrom) The old legal response that ignorance
of the law is no excuse is ridiculous. It does not help at all.
We know from research evidence that most peoplethe RAC
report confirms itbelieve in our current speed limit regime,
and then go on and break it. We clearly have got a task to get
people not just to believe it but then to behave in compliance
with it. There is no future in us trying to reduce road casualties
by prosecuting motorists. The future has got to be in persuading
motorists that for good reason they should choose to keep their
foot off the accelerator pedal and drive at an appropriate speed
and comply with the law. That is the task. If we try to do this
simply by issuing more fixed penalty tickets, we will fail, because
eventually the enforcement will become so draconian that we would
lose public support and that cannot be in the interests of the
country or the police service. It has got to be about persuading
people to comply with the law voluntarily, and that requires of
course the speed limits to be appropriate such that people want
to comply with them. It is a bit of a circular argument, but it
is desperately important.
24. Who should be responsible for organising
(Mr Brunstrom) The statutory authority rests almost
equally now with local authorities and chief constables, and I
think that is absolutely right. I think there is no need for any
change there at all. It works very well indeed. It is taken up
in local crime disorder plans and local transport plans. We have
got the communications in place to do that. The safety camera
partnerships are strengthening that dramatically, so I think the
system eventually is going to work very well.
25. The emphasis in much research is to do with
the impact of speed on safety. What about the impact of speed
on the quality of the local environment, of perhaps deterring
people from walking around and enjoying the environment because
they are worried about speed as they perceive it?
(Mr Brunstrom) I need to speak on this, Chairmanand
I am mindful of your comments to keep to my own remit, but this
is very relevant.
26. There are very few opportunities in my life,
Chief Constable, to tell a chief constable what to do!
(Mr Brunstrom) I would be happy to offer more, Chairman,
if you wish. Seriously, this is an issue where I do have a bone
of contention with the Government. It is an area that we will
increasingly start calling environmental enforcement. One of the
problems we have is that the speed camera work has been done purely
and simply on the basis that the public support the enforcement
of speed limits for road safety purposes. Speed limits actually
exist for other purposes as well. The best example is on the M25
motorway around London, where the variable speed limits, the 50
limits, are there for traffic management purposes and environmental
purposes, for people living near the roads, not for safety purposes,
but the distinction is not clear. If they are going to be enforced
in the same way, via a fixed penalty ticket and potentially a
court appearance, that could cause significant problems in public
support for the safety camera scheme. There is enormous public
demand for speed limits for environmental purposes. Everybody
wants the traffic to go slower down their street or through their
village or through their town. There are interesting consequences
for the environment in pollution terms because slower moving traffic
can in some circumstances cause more pollution. There are noise
pollution issues to consider . At the moment, all this is mixed
up together and enforced by the police as a criminal offence.
That is not wrong, but there is a great danger of confusion arising
in the mind of the public as to what the police are doing and
why we are doing it.
27. Do you think there should be a dedicated
police force for traffic alone?
(Mr Brunstrom) No, I absolutely do not. It is my very
strong belief that the public do not either. The best example
I think I could recently give of that is New Zealand, where they
used to have a Department of Transport police service and they
abolished it and merged it with the national police because it
did not work very well. The only significant difference, though,
is that the Department of Transport continue to fund just over
20 per cent of the national police force budget in New Zealand
and therefore can directly influence police policy. That is not
the case in the UK and it is an interesting idea.
28. Why did it not work? We are not quite comparable.
I mean, we are both islands but there are some differences.
(Mr Brunstrom) There are some significant differences,
Chairman. We would be very seriously against, I think, the creation
of a separate police
29. Yes. Why?
(Mr Brunstrom) Because the roads are part of the general
policing environment in the United Kingdom. If we tried to separate
the road policing from the general me®le«e of policing
we will cause significant communication difficulties, dysfunction,
we will end up not having a unified service. We know that the
public are extremely keen to see more visible policing on our
roads, they are concerned that that is suffering a process of
attrition at the momentand you will have seen the figures
in my paper. We are after a sort of holistic, unified approach
to policing in public areas, which includes the roads. Separating
one from the other would, I think, have a devastating impact on
our crime fighting ability. I am firmly against it, Chairman.
30. But you do have traffic police dedicated
to that service alone. The problem is that from one county to
the other and from one police force to the other there is a different
(Mr Brunstrom) No, we do not. We have traffic officers
who specialise in road policing, in the same way that we have
people who specialise in murder investigation, but it is a fundamental
principle of British policing that everybody who is a constableand
I am toohas powers to enforce all the law and is expected
to use them. It is quite right that when one is looking at a sophisticated
specialism, such as road policing, that we give additional training,
additional expertise, additional equipment to officers who do
that, but traffic police officers arrest travelling criminals,
they deal with road traffic collisions, they deal with all aspects
of road policing. Hiving this off into a specialism is something
that we would not welcome.
31. The Met Police have reduced numbers quite
dramaticallysince 1996 to 2000 it is down some 25 per centand
has removed most of the police officers from traffic policing.
Does this suggest that the Met Police treat road policing as a
core service? Or does it reinforce my argument, or the point I
put to you in a question, that there should be dedicated traffic
(Mr Brunstrom) Chairman, I am not able to speak for
the Commissioner of Police for London but, if I could refer to
one of your colleague's previous questions, if we are using technology
properly, a lot of the work that police officers used to do on
the road, particularly enforcing speed, can be done better and
more effectively by technology.
32. To the extent of 25 per cent?
(Mr Brunstrom) I beg your pardon?
33. The figure actually quoted is that they
are using 25 per cent less police officers.
(Mr Brunstrom) Chairman, I am sorry, I will have to
repeat: I cannot speak for the Commissioner of Police for London.
34. But would you see a gap between the size
of that change and the ability of the Met to produce a core policing
service in relation to traffic? We are asking for an opinion,
Chief Constable, and, whatever the Met do to you, I promise not
to hang you out to dry!
(Mr Brunstrom) I am grateful for the support, Chairman.
Can I perhaps approach this in a slightly circuitous fashion.
35. Not too circuitous.
(Mr Brunstrom) There is a clear demand from the public,
Chairman, to see more police officers out on public roads. It
is clear from the evidence to hand that chief constables across
the country, including in London, have been posting officers away
from specialised traffic duties over the last decade or so.
36. What have you done in North Wales?
(Mr Brunstrom) Since I have been the Chief Constable
of Wales, which has been two years, there has been effectively
no change in traffic policing numbers. However the amount of enforcement
we have done has gone up
Chairman: That is rather a careful answer.
Mr Wiggin: Let him finish.
37. What happened before you were the Chief
(Mr Brunstrom) I am sorry, I do not know the answer
to that question, Chairman. I would have to go back and research
that. The point I am trying to make, though, in answer to your
colleague's question, is that this is not about numbers; it is
about effectiveness of public support. What we are doing on the
roads has increased dramatically. If I could refer you to figure
1 in my report, you will see that despite the apparent reduction
in police numberswhich I think is real but not as robust
as the numbers indicatewe are actually doing a lot more
work in this area, dramatically more work, because we have got
more effective and efficient. That has been a thrust from government
for the whole of the last decade, that we must get our act together,
we must not waste time, we must apply ourselves effectively. There
are, however, other calls upon the time of chief officers and
chief officers' staff. Were I the Commissioner of Police for the
Metropolis, which I am not, I might well do the same as the current
commissioner is doing, given the other demands upon his officers'
Chairman: Thank you, that is very diplomatic.
38. Earlier you mentioned technology in your
response and you indicated the use of digital cameras. But digital
cameras cannot be used within the police force on any road because
they can be tampered with. They can be tampered with, can they
not, in terms of traffic offences?
(Mr Brunstrom) We do use digital cameras regularly
and I have the responsibility for ensuring that they cannot be
tampered with. The way we have done this, with advice from the
Police Scientific Development Branch, which is a scientific arm
of the Home Office, is to plagiarise bank security systems, which
are now industry standards. We record our evidence at the moment
at the roadside on a write-only disk, so that there is hard evidence
on a disk. We then encode that and transmit it in encoded fashion,
completely encrypted to bank security levels (this is the level
of security that is used to transfer cash round the world). It
is next to impossible to break into that and to tamper with the
39. This is the same technology as is used in
security cameras that the police also use.
(Mr Brunstrom) Absolutely. I could not offer you an
absolute assuranceI do not think anybody scientifically
couldbut we are totally satisfied that these systems are
secured, and they must be if we are to retain confidence in the
criminal justice process.