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
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