Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Exmination of Witnesses (Questions 60-75)



Mr Betts

  60. Let us go back to the issue of hypothecation, if we may, because I have a bit of concern. If part of the funding of your service depends on effectively catching people and fining them, is there not a danger that the policy you adopt towards the siting of cameras will be skewed towards exactly that—catching people rather than deterring them?
  (Mr Brunstrom) You are very right: of course there is such a danger and that is why the government has required us to put in written business cases in great detail as to what we are going to do and where we are going to do it and why, and that is subject to external scrutiny and audit in order to allow us to hypothecate the prime revenue. The risk is very real: I think the government has an excellent scheme for preventing us skewing our operational tactics in that regard.

  61. Were you a little bit alarmed when it was announced that all these cameras were going to be painted yellow so that people do not get caught, at the same time as the system is being set up for you to use the fines on people being caught?
  (Mr Brunstrom) Not at all, there is no research evidence to say that yellow cameras work better than ones that are not: nor is there any to show they do not. In principle, I support entirely what the Minister said—our intention here is not to trap people but to make it very obvious that you should comply with the limit. We do not want to raise revenue: we want you to drive properly. Therefore, in principle, making our enforcement extremely overt rather than covert, which is why we publish it on the Internet and in papers, wear bright yellow clothes and have yellow cameras, is all part of ensuring public confidence in our approach. It is not about catching motorists to raise revenue but about persuading people to drive more safely, so I welcome the concept. However, the government was quick out of the stocks on this, perhaps, and I think the concept of whether yellow cameras work well would benefit from some proper research.

  62. In terms of the weight and severity with which we treat speeding on motorways as opposed to speeding in 30 mph areas, looking at your evidence it is clear that you summons us for going about a third above the speed limit on a motorway but two thirds above in a 30 mph area, where people might think it is more dangerous and more likely to injure or kill people. There is also a special offence, I understand, for speeding on motorways. Have we got the balance wrong?
  (Mr Brunstrom) No, I think it is right for the moment. We have had the courage of our convictions and we publish those enforcement guidelines so they are freely available so the public can see what we are doing. It is our intention to review those on a regular basis as we get better at enforcing speed limits, so we will come back and revisit those in about twelve months' time and take account of the sort of points you are making. They are the enforcement limits we are using at the moment and, as we get better and we hope mean vehicle speeds reduce and there is less offending, we will be looking to reduce limits to follow that down. I think at the moment the balance is where we want it.

Andrew Bennett

  63. On camera fines and enforcement, is it a voluntary contribution or are you happy that camera fines are being effectively collected?
  (Mr Brunstrom) It is most certainly not a voluntary contribution; this is the criminal law. At the moment, overall about 90 per cent of finds are paid—95 in the best places, and between 5 and 10 per cent are not. That is a very high compliance rate compared to other aspects of criminal justice but not high enough, and we have cunning plans in hand to ensure that the 10 per cent of non payers get their dues, because, of course, coming back to your point, Chair, about traffic policing, the 10 per cent of non payers tend to be active criminals in other areas as well and it is grossly unfair if I as a law-abiding motorist have to pay my penalty and the person next door to me simply ignores it. So again, in order to retain public confidence and to catch wrongdoers who use our roads, we need to be cleverer at chasing up the non payers. I can assure you we are on to that, and it is part of the safety camera scheme that we have to demonstrate what we are doing to improve payment rates.

  Andrew Bennett: One or two high profile footballers appear to have persuaded the courts to be somewhat sympathetic about not disqualifying them. If they are not disqualified, would it be helpful if they were forced to drive small capacity cars that could not go so fast?


  64. Now there is a temptation, Chief Constable, but one you should probably resist!
  (Mr Brunstrom) Yes. There have been a couple of high profile cases recently where, in our view, the magistrates have misdirected themselves as to what the law says. A couple of those cases are in appeal—

  65. In which case you will not want to comment on them.
  (Mr Brunstrom) No, I will not be commenting any further on those. The interesting question really is whether the existing penalties are a sufficient deterrent for those people who can afford to pay fines and ignore the law and I think our answer to that in general terms, leaving aside individual high profile cases, is that the existing regime works extremely well but we need to enforce it a bit better. At the moment we have great difficulty in catching people who drive while disqualified, for instance.

  66. So disqualification enforcement is not good?
  (Mr Brunstrom) No. The principle of disqualification works extremely well. Psychologically—and we have done research on this—there is no doubt at all that that is the major deterrent. It is not the sixty quid fine; it is the risk of disqualification. We are on now to using new technology, particularly automatic numberplate readers that will be able to identify vehicles that are being driven by people who are disqualified and we are -


  67. Just a minute. That would require you not just to read the numberplate but to know who was behind the wheel.
  (Mr Brunstrom) You are quite right. Most of the people we could catch by the numberplate but the next issue is facial recognition by taking photographs through windscreens—

  68. Oh, Chief Constable, you are opening up a bag of goods here!
  (Mr Brunstrom) We are into research on that at the moment. I would imagine that facial recognition systems are probably five to ten years away, but not twenty.

Andrew Bennett

  69. What is the standards unit in the Home Office White Paper going to do?
  (Mr Brunstrom) We welcome the standards unit. There needs to be more standardisation and more focus on what the police do to reduce casualties and why we are not consistent from one force to the other. Potentially it has a lot to offer but it is going to have to have an awful lot of staff if it is going to be sufficiently proactive to deal with this sort of detail. But it is a good idea.

  70. In your view, are you a lone voice that thinks you can get the message across that speeding is socially unacceptable, or do you have the full support of all the other members of ACPO?
  (Mr Brunstrom) I have the overwhelming support of the other members of ACPO and I can demonstrate that best by the fact that we have a queue of police forces and constables waiting to join the safety camera scheme. It is not the case that we all agree with each other: you would not wish that. We are not clones and there are issues to be debated here. We have the overwhelming support of the police force in the United Kingdom. Our anticipation at the moment is that probably every force will voluntarily wish to join the safety camera scheme within the next two years. That is our expectation. Whether that comes to pass, I wait to see. I am afraid the second part of your question has gone from my mind.

  71. How far the rest of your views you have expressed—
  (Mr Brunstrom) Am I a lone voice? No, most certainly not. You will see us debating things privately and occasionally publicly, because we do not all agree with each other. I have the overwhelming support in what I have said today of my colleagues in ACPO, and the public. There is no doubt at all that this is popular and, if you look at the evidence about local newspaper reports, again and again 95 per cent of newspaper reports are overwhelmingly positive. The public support this —


  72. I hope chief constables will not misunderstand that support from the press is not always the same as support from the public.
  (Mr Brunstrom) No, it is most certainly not, and of course that is why we have done opinion surveys in three or four different routes and they all reinforce the same message. I would like to make a crucially important point: part of my role as a local chief constable is to make sure I am in touch with local opinion. We know in the police service that opinion in a country supports this scheme and my duty is to reflect that. Therefore, that is another reason why the vast majority of my colleagues are active supporters of what is going on.

  73. I think it is helpful just to ask you, because you have been very open, are there any particular changes in speed limits that you want?
  (Mr Brunstrom) No.

  74. Apart from consistency from the government, a clear steer?
  (Mr Brunstrom) No.

  75. Can I say we are grateful to you, and I will try and drive better when in north Wales.
  (Mr Brunstrom) You better had, Chair, because we will be on to you!

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 6 March 2002