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

Annex C


  1.  Under section 20 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 all speed and red-light devices using radar or laser must be of an approved type before they can be used operationally by police to gather evidence for subsequent prosecutions (or the issuing of fixed penalty notices).

  2.  Devices are first tested operationally by forces and then scientifically by the Home Office Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB). PSDB must be satisfied that the device complies with their specifications set out in the "Speedmeter Handbook" and that it is accurate, reliable and robust. PSDB then recommend approval to Home Office policy officials who arrange for Ministerial signature of an appropriate type approval order.

  3.  PSDB and policy officials sit on ACPO Road Policing Enforcement (RPET) Committee which considers operational policy on speed limit enforcement and the appropriate use of enforcement technology. Manufacturers regularly present to the committee new equipment to be considered for entry into the type approval process. Although the vast majority of approved devices are analogue, providing evidence in the form of printouts and wet film photographs, the committee is very aware of the latest developments in digital equipment.

  4.  In considering the type approval of any digital equipment, the RPET committee considered the safety of evidence and the acceptability to courts of that evidence. It was decided that to ensure safe convictions all evidence should be recorded at the roadside and that the transmission of evidence digitally to a police station would not be acceptable as doubts could be raised about possible interference.

  5.  Nottingham City Council launched its Road Safety "netting-off" pilot in June 2000 and intended to use a digital camera transmitting the evidence. The RPET Committee did not allow this. The Nottingham system still stores evidence at the roadside. The Home Office recognises that this has meant additional expense to the City Council and Highways Agency in installation costs. The aim however has solely been to ensure integrity of the process.

  6.  The issue of digital transmission has been discussed by the RPET committee on a number of occasions; all members are mindful that technology has advanced considerably over the years as has courts' acceptance of digital evidence. It can now be shown that digital data can be transmitted to bank security levels and safeguards can be introduced to the process that can prove to a very high degree whether the image has been tampered with in any way. The Crown Prosecution Service has recently indicated that most of their anxieties in regard to digital evidence have now been allayed.

  7.  The RPET committee next meets on 13-14 March. This issue is on the agenda. Indications are that the committee may relax its rules on roadside recording thereby allowing remote recording of evidence of speed offences. Such a decision would allow Nottingham City Council to expand their system without incurring additional evidence storage costs.

  8.  Decisions such as these, which affect the type approval process cannot be taken lightly as any change carries considerable technical, operational and in particular legal implications.

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