Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill

Written evidence submitted by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) (VTAB 07)

Diversionary Courses (Clause 23)

Introduction

1. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) welcomes the opportunity to comment on Clause 23 in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill. This Clause will establish the administration of diversionary courses to be placed on a statutory footing and to clarify the position of such courses. The NPCC welcomes this approach by the Government.

Background

2. The offer of a course as an alternative to a fixed penalty notice or court prosecution is founded on the common law power of discretion exercised by a police constable. This is an important and uncontested part of the policing structure. It enables a police constable to exercise his/her judgement as to the right course of action following an incident to which a police officer has been called or an offence which the officer witnesses. This approach has never been called into question and remains critical to the successful operation of policing.

3. In addition, the recommendation that educational interventions might be considered alongside enforcement dates to the Review of Road Traffic Law undertaken by Sir Peter North in 1988. In his report, published and endorsed by the Department of Transport (DfT), he proposed that courses should be offered to road users in certain circumstances as an alternative to prosecution. In his report, he also envisaged that the courses would be placed on a statutory footing although this never materialised.

Current Course Provision

4. Since the publication of the North Review, the police service has developed a range of courses seeking to improve road user behaviour and to encourage compliance with road traffic law through better information and awareness. Full details of the courses can be found at www.ndors.org.uk/courses. The complete suite of courses comprises:

· The National Speed Awareness Course

· What’s Driving Us?

· The National Driver Alertness Course

· National Speed Awareness Course for 20mph zones

· Driving 4 Change

· RIDE – a course for motorcyclists

· Your Belt Your Life – a course for seatbelt offenders and

· Motorway Speed Awareness Course (operational from March 2017)

5. All these courses have been developed nationally. The provision of courses at a police force level is a matter for the individual police force in conjunction with its training provider.

The Research Underpinning Course Development

6. Of these courses, the National Speed Awareness Course is by far the biggest, completed by 1.19m drivers in 2016. It is therefore essential that such a course has been developed on a robust educational basis. Full details of the thinking behind the course can be found in Road Safety Research Report 66, published by the DfT in March 2006, and entitled Effective Interventions for Speeding Motorists. This gives an overview of models of behavioural change and identifies four types of speeders: the unintentional; the moderate occasional; the frequent high speeder; and the socially deviant.

7. The report looked at the most effective ways of changing the behaviour of the first two of these four and proposed appropriate ways of achieving these in a classroom course. This advice was then used to develop the National Speed Awareness Course. It is therefore important to note that the course has a sound educational basis.

Evaluation of Course Effectiveness

8. During the Second Reading of the Bill, questions were asked about any evaluation of the effectiveness of speed awareness courses. The NPCC recognises that this is a vital question.

9. Two independent reports have undertaken evaluations of the courses. The first was conducted by Brainbox Research on behalf of ACPO and is available at www.ndors.org.uk/research/library. This report, Evaluation of the National Speed Awareness Course, published in July 2010, involved questionnaire responses from 2,070 participants from 15 police forces. It concluded that those attending speed awareness courses showed "positive changes in attitudes with drivers perceiving fewer advantages and more disadvantages of speeding". This change in attitudes was maintained after the course, with motorists reporting that they drive more slowly, are more aware of the road environment and of their speed, and feel less stressed when driving. This provides evidence that the courses had a positive effect on driving behaviour.

10. The second report (details of which can be found at http://www.aston.ac.uk/news/releases/2013/january/speed-awareness-courses/) looked at the courses provided by one training provider between November 2011 and April 2012 as part of the Knowledge Transfer Programme undertaken by Aston University. In his commentary on the courses, Professor Robin Martin of Aston University Business School who led the study concluded that:

"Speed awareness courses led to reliable improvements in clients’ attitudes towards speeding and, more importantly, their intentions not to break the speed limit."

Governance

11. In April 2016, overall management and administration of the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) scheme was transferred to UKROEd, a company limited by guarantee and the wholly owned trading subsidiary of the Road Safety Trust. UKROEd has signed a Scheme Administration Agreement with the NPCC which sets out the work that UKROEd will undertake on behalf of the police service. This focuses primarily on the maintenance of the database of those offered a course as an alternative to enforcement and on the quality assurance and further development of existing and new courses.

12. Suzette Davenport, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary and current NPCC Lead for Roads Policing, chairs the board of UKROEd. Her fellow directors are:

· John Lewis, independent non-executive and former chief executive of the BVRLA

· Robert Gifford, Chief Executive

· Jerry Moore, Managing Director, NDORS and

· Hugh Sutherland, Finance Director.

13. UKROEd, as a trading subsidiary, reports to the Road Safety Trust (registered charity number: 1156300). Any surplus from its trading activities will be transferred to the Trust to support its charitable activities.

14. The charitable objective of the Trust is to support research and practical interventions to reduce death and injury on the road and has awarded just over £1m to 11 projects during 2016/17. The members of the Trust are the 43 police forces of England and Wales. Its board of trustees, comprising 11, is as follows:

· Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, NPCC Lead for Roads Policing

· Oliver Carsten, Professor of Transport Safety, University of Leeds

· Jo Clift, consultant and retired senior civil servant

· Claire Corbett, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Brunel Law School

· Tony Fuller, formerly Metropolitan Police

· David Jamieson, Police and Crime Commissioner, West Midlands

· Kate McMahon, consultant, former head of road safety at DfT

· James Millar, company director

· Gary Walker, specialist in corporate governance

· Ashton West, Chief Executive, Motor Insurers’ Bureau

· Philippa Young, Group Manager Transport Planning, Traffic and Road Safety, Warwickshire County Council

Conclusion

15. The NPCC welcomes the proposal contained in the Bill to set diversionary courses on a statutory footing. It believes that this will help to develop the courses further and to ensure that they are of a high quality and nationally available. It has submitted this written evidence to show that there is a sound research base for the courses and that considerable thought has been given to them. It looks forward to taking them forward once the legislation is placed on the statute book.

March 2017

 

Prepared 16th March 2017