Exmination of Witnesses (Questions 60-75)|
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
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 thatcatching
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 saidour 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
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 paid95 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
(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. Psychologicallyand we have done research
on thisthere 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.
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
71. How far the rest of your views you have
(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!