101. Before certain new technologies can be used
officially by the police in enforcement of traffic law, they have
to be 'type approved' by the Home Office. This ensures that the
equipment is reliable, robust and of a sufficiently high standard
to be used to produce evidence.
102. The type approval process has two stages: one
led by the ACPO Traffic Enforcement Technology Sub Committee and
the second by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch.
The ACPO committee review the technical description and health
and safety information of any new device presented by a company,
and if it is thought to have merit, the committee allocates three
police forces to carry out tests in accordance with guidance.
The ACPO committee then writes to the Home Office Scientific Development
Branch with a decision on whether the device should be pursued.
The Branch carry out further technical tests, and if these are
satisfactorily completed it recommends Type Approval to the Home
Office Public Order and Police Co-operation Unit.
103. While most people would recognise the importance
of testing and checking new equipment to guarantee its reliability,
the type approval process has come in for criticism, and not only
from potential manufacturers of the new equipment. The process
is challenged for being lengthy and expensive.
The cost of this process is thought to be a deterrent to innovation
in some cases. Commenting on the delays caused by type approval,
the Police Federation said: "We believe this process must
be subject to a serious review, and a new system established which
encourages innovation by manufacturers."
Mr Neal Skelton of ITS-UK warned against rushing the type approval
There are inherent delays in the type approval process,
but I am aware that they are really going as fast as they can
go because the type approval process seeks to eradicate subsequent
challenges and costly court implications. So if you tried to speed
it up you probably could but there will be retrospective effects,
I would be sure.
104. The delay in securing type approval for roadside
alcohol screening equipment was identified. The problems this
creates for enforcement are discussed in more detail in chapter
7. In discussing
the delays, however, the Home Office Minister told us:
There is no complacency about it but, because we
have to provide something which will stand up as evidence in court,
it is important that the devices that are used are completely
and utterly reliable. Indeed, the Home Secretary would not sign
off approval for anything that was not capable of giving that
kind of evidence 100% of the time.
The example of the roadside alcohol screening equipment
highlights the frustration that the police and other road safety
professionals encounter when Parliament passes legislation bringing
in new enforcement powers, but the police are unable to then make
use of these powers because the technology does not yet exist.
Ideally the powers and the equipment should be introduced at the
achieving full market development of new technologies, and Home
Office type approval, can lead to delay in anticipated improvements
in roads policing. Ideally any necessary legislation and type
approval of new technologies will come about at the same timethis
requires proper planning and investment in research, design and
development. The Home Office should examine whether the type approval
process can be improved and accelerated without jeopardizing the
outcomes. The process should encourage, not hinder, manufacturers