Exmination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)|
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
1. Good morning, Mr Brunstrom. Could you kindly
identify yourself for the record?
BRUNSTROM) I am Richard
Brunstrom. I am the Chief Constable of North Wales Police and
I am also the Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers
Traffic Enforcement Technology Committee.
2. Do you have any opening remarks you wish
(Mr Brunstrom) Only briefly. I have submitted written
evidence. I really want to highlight the fact that, although we
have the safest roads in Europe now, we are still killing 3,500
people a year on our roads. We find as chief police officers that
is unacceptable. It is four times the number of people subject
to homicide and it must therefore be regarded by us as one of
the major issues facing British policing at the beginning of the
21 century. The only other point I would wish to make, Chairman,
is that not only is it a big problem but we know that pro-actively
we can do something about it. This does not have to be accepted,
it does not have to be put up with: we can do a very great deal
to reduce further the appalling toll of death and injuries upon
3. I think that view is not only a very sensible
one but is also one which will be welcomed by the House of Commons.
We are very grateful to you for saying this. How important is
enforcement compared with education and improved road engineering?
(Mr Brunstrom) It is very important and it is important
too that we look at this in the round. The research evidence from
psychologists across the developed world shows that in order to
achieve a behavioural shift, which is what we are after, and to
secure better compliance with the law, people have to understand
why something is against the law, what the consequences of breaking
the law are, why it is in society's interest to behave like this
rather than like that, and that has to be backed up with effective
enforcement. There has to be a realistic and significant chance
of being caught and a suitable sanction being applied. That has
been proved in a number of different fields but I think probably
the best example is the breathalyser legislation, where over 25
years of consistent policy from several governments and the police
service, with consistent educational messages, with a consistent
enforcement policy, a very significant change in behaviour has
been achieved and we are confident that the same can be done with
4. Is that not changing, though?
(Mr Brunstrom) We have not eliminated drink-driving,
but what we have done is to achieve a cultural shift where drink-driving
is socially unacceptable. When I was a young man, it was accepted
practice to drink and drive; my children now thinkI have
teenage children, just beginning to drivethat you are a
very stupid person indeed if you drink and drive. That is a very
significant cultural shift. The same can be done, we are confident,
5. What examples do you have of good practice
of traffic policing?
(Mr Brunstrom) By far the best example, Chairman,
is the current safety camera scheme, which in my view is the best
available example of a proper partnershipproper joined-up
government, joined-up thinking between the police, government
departments and other agenciesto produce an effective scheme,
an effective scheme that will change driver behaviour, with now,
uniquely so far in the UK, the offenders paying for the improvements,
so not just an enforcement but also an education. It is a wonderful
example for which I believe the Government deserves significant
credit. It is a fantastic example of what joined-up government
really looks like.
6. Are there any schemes whereby you check with,
say, ambulance trusts, where they have data which could be useful
to you, as to the site and the type of road traffic accidents?
(Mr Brunstrom) Yes, indeed. The safety camera partnerships
are all based on magistrates' court's areas, because that is where
the fines go. They are now co-terminus with police areas and each
of the partnerships has to produce a business case as to how they
are going to reduce road casualties in order to access the fines
coming from offenders. That is all based now on intelligence.
Part of the intelligence, the information coming in, is from NHS
trusts of various sorts: casualty departments, NHS consultantsbecause
of course the NHS is bearing a significant portion of the consequences
of road death. Very large numbers of hospital beds are taken up
by people who are injured in road traffic collisions, so the hospital
trusts have a significant direct interest in this.
7. What research is being done with the camera
industry in developing new technologyand cameras are changing
all the timewhereby they could be cheaper, sited more frequently
and be more accurate and allow the police to enforce more effectively.
(Mr Brunstrom) I have no problem at all with the current
development of the technology. It is an international business.
The UK Government's Type Approval Process, which is owned by the
Home Office, is internationally respected and, as a direct result
of that, a lot of the international research is being done by
manufacturers in the UKa very powerful fillip for our approach.
You are quite right, technology is becoming very much more sophisticatedwe
are now into digital capture techniques and there is some really
exciting equipment coming on to the marketand the price
is coming down. The price is coming down for two reasons. One
is that technology prices generally are coming down in all fields,
but also we are buying more equipment, and, of course, as the
size of the market increases, the unit cost of a particular piece
of equipment goes down. Given the netting-off project, the safety
camera scheme, there is now really no cost constraint in terms
of introducing new technology to the market.
8. In your submission to the Select Committee,
you are critical of the Government's White Paper on the issue
of speed. What should the Government do? What should the Home
Office do to improve the situation?
(Mr Brunstrom) We would like to see a clear and unequivocal
statement from the Home Officewho of course are our sponsoring
departmentthat they see road safety as one of the key issues
for policing. That has been asked for on many occasions and we
have never had a very clear and unequivocal statement.
9. Is it not included in your core responsibilities?
(Mr Brunstrom) Not in the way that we would wish.
There is a very clear statement from the Government as a wholeindeed,
the Prime Minister launched the Road Safety Strategy, and this
is part of thatbut the police service, as you will be well
aware, is under severe scrutiny at the moment. There is major
reform, a once-in-a-generation type reform coming forwards, and
we would just like to see built into that a very clear statement
that road death is a matter of importance to the Home Office,
not just to DTLR.
10. What should the plan say?
(Mr Brunstrom) I would like to see a clear statement
in the National Policing Planwhich is a new innovation
being proposed in the Police Bill introduced into the Lords last
weeksomething similar to that which I put in the introduction
to my submission, that road death is one of the major issues facing
British policing. I do not really want to see anything more sophisticated
than that.: a very simple but clear and powerful statement.
11. In your estimate, how many lives would be
(Mr Brunstrom) I do not think I can answer that question.
I do not think it would in itself save lives; what it would do
is make very clear to the police service and to the country as
a whole that this is core police work. The Committee will be aware
that we have been previously criticised by the Inspectorate of
Constabulary for not being sufficiently focussed on road death
in the past and I think we would have to concede that that criticism
had some justification.
12. Is there not some shift in the responsibility
from the police to the Government? In the Government White Paper
it says, "We will support police authorities in their role
in securing continuous improvements in performance and in particular
their representations of the views of the local community."
The Government are saying, "We will support the policy in
anything they do which will improve motorway and road safety."
Is that not sufficient?
(Mr Brunstrom) No, it is not. I very much welcome
that statement by the Government in the White Paper. It is absolutely
right and proper. But the Government is proposing at the moment
for the first time to have a National Policing Plan. We have never
had a National Policing Plan before. Policing plans have been
local in local areasand they work very wellunder
the current Police Act. The new Act proposes a national plan.
Our view, very simply, is that this is new legislation, it is
a new idea, it is a very welcome idea, and it ought to includebut
it currently is not proposed to do sothat simple statement
that road policing is core police work.
13. The Government, under the road safety scheme,
is appealing to people to have more regard for road safety, including
speeding. Would there not be a conflict? Here we have road safety
statements and now from the police. How many statements do we
need from the Government before the police will be satisfied?
(Mr Brunstrom) I think the answer to your question,
sir, is: One moreand I do not mean to be facetious. I think
there is a real issue here, that, if we are to have National Policing
Plan, either road policing is in that or it is not and my colleagues
and I need to know what the Government's intention is. Policing
is a tripartite structure: the Government is one limb of that
structure, I am another, and the police authorities are the third.
We need to know with clarity what the Government's strategic intention
is when they go for such a significant change as is now being
14. May I remind the Committee of my interest,
in that I sit on the Public Policy Committee of the RAC. There
is an increasing amount of cynicism on the part of motorists now
that the police are charging and retaining part of the revenue.
Which is more important in your view, that the speed camera should
earn the revenue or should act as a deterrent?
(Mr Brunstrom) Could I begin perhaps by challenging
the increasing amount of scepticism because I do not think the
research actually supports that. Indeed, the recent RAC report,
which was published only last weekand I think you will
be hearing evidence on their behalf pretty shortlyclearly
shows significant public support for the Government's current
policy on speed camera application, as have all the previous surveys:
DirectLine; DTR's own work; our own survey work; our survey of
the national press. Where there is concern is: Where is the money
going? This will not be a successful project if the police are
perceived to have our hand in the till and to be syphoning money
off, or anybody else to be syphoning money off, for some other
15. Are you saying you would not want to change
the purposes for which the money can be used; for example, looking
at new technology?
(Mr Brunstrom) At the moment the money raised from
offenders is being used for a small range of extra work; for instance,
buying extra cameras, putting more police hours into it, defraying
the costs of the court service and the local authorities in actually
enforcing the law. It is being used too for a national education
campaign and we now have a national publicity officer working
with DTLR out of part of hypothecated revenue. There are other
things that could be done; for instance, money could be used to
improve road engineering.
16. Are you saying that you think the money
is too restrictive in its usage?
(Mr Brunstrom) No. I think it is absolutely appropriate
for the moment.
17. Are you suggesting there should be more
(Mr Brunstrom) Not yet. I am perfectly content with
where we are at the moment.
18. On the question I put, is it not more important
that it is seen to be a deterrent? Rather than putting more cameras
up, should you not pay to have films in the cameras that are there?
(Mr Brunstrom) You are quite right, and there is evidence
in the RAC report, amongst others, that an awful lot of people
are having cameras flash at them and nothing then happens. The
reason for that is that until very recently, and indeed now, there
has not been enough money in the system, with all the conflicting
demands on local authorities and police services, to buy enough
film for cameras. The hypothecation project changes that and from
April this year more than half of the police force areas in Britain
will be in the hypothecation project and there will be no resource
problem in filling cameras with film. We are also moving, as your
colleague was saying, to new technology, digital technology, where
film becomes irrelevant and the cost of enforcing the law reduces
dramatically. That is again a limb of this project, to reduce
the cost of enforcing the law, and in due course, as the Chairman
is saying, that will free up more money to do other things, like
improving road engineering.
Miss McIntosh: I think road engineering should
rightly fall to the local authorities, whereas the money that
you are raising should be netted off to pay for the film for the
Chairman: I think you have the answer to that.
Is there another question?
19. One last question. Is it not better to target
police activity, cameras and other controls, at appropriate speeds
for the conditions, the area, the weather conditions and the road
conditions, rather than excess speed? Would you agree that it
is better to reduce the speed limit in certain residential areas
(where there is a school and children crossing the road, or a
home for the elderly) to 20 miles an hour but increase it to 80
miles an hour in good weather conditions on the right road, such
as a motorway.
(Mr Brunstrom) Two or three points there. First of
all, I entirely endorse the view that speed enforcement should
be targeted where there is a problem, not blanketed. In the past
our targeting has not been sufficiently robust, and that is a
fundamental part of the new project. The second point: Yes, I
do entirely agree that there are many locations where lower speed
limits would be appropriate. That is a very difficult project
and it requires a great deal of work, but, you are quite right,
in the area of schools, for instance, and other places, where
we can demonstrate a casualty problemsand we must bear
in mind that we have a very poor record with pedestrian casualties
and particularly child pedestrian casualtiesthere is much
scope for lowering specific limits in specific areas for specific
reasons. We do not support a raise in the motorway speed limit,
or indeed a generic rate of any speed limit. The research evidence
specifically shows that if you raise a speed limit there will
be more casualties. If we raised the motorway speed to 80and
motorways are inherently safer roads: very well designed and very
well maintainedcasualties will go up. But that of course
is a police view. There might be other perfectly good reasons
why a society might choose to raise motorway speed limits: to
reduce travel times or congestion.