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Speed cameras: still seen as cash machines

24 July 2020

Some road safety partnerships appear to regard speed cameras as revenue generating devices more than road safety tools, says the review of roads policing by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary Fire and Rescue Services.

“In some cases, we found that the rationale for the deployment of camera enforcement technology was open to the suspicion that it supported a self-serving approach to raising revenue,” reports the HMICFRS.

The number of fixed penalty notices for excessive speed rose by 41 per cent between 2011 and 2018 to 2,105,409. HMICFRS attributes the rise to more camera enforcement, in the main conducted by road safety partnerships, of which police forces are members.  

Camera enforcement is “effective in reducing serious collisions”, says HMICFRS, comparing the rise in fixed penalty notices with the fall in the proportion of collisions in which a person was killed or seriously injured and speed was identified as a contributory factor. 

Although police forces and road safety partnerships don’t receive the funds from fines and fixed penalties, they can recover costs for the administration of offences and the provision of educational schemes such as speed awareness courses, which are offered as an alternative to prosecution. “Crucially, what constitutes recovery of costs is open to interpretation,” says the Inspectorate. 

The report cites “suspicion among officers, including some at chief officer level, that [camera enforcement] was intended to increase revenue for the safety partnership.

The Inspectorate heard that the reason enforcement took place at certain locations “was that they were ‘good hunting grounds’, rather than because they had a history of collisions”.

HMICFRS says safety partnerships/police forces vary in how much they adhere to the advice in DfT circular 1/2007 Use of speed and red light cameras for traffic enforcement: guidance on deployment, visibility and signing.

It recommends that the Government refreshes the circular by August 2021 and that it should require partnerships to report annual revenue received from driver offending-related training courses and how the revenue is spent.   

Speed awareness courses are part of the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) managed by UKROEd, a subsidiary of the Road Safety Trust. The trust is a charity and company whose members are the 44 police forces of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The fee charged to attend a course varies between police forces, ranging from £80 to £100. UKROEd sets the amount forces can claim back from that fee as cost recovery. It is currently £45.  

HMICFRS says that, dependent upon police costs and the number attending speed awareness courses, there is the potential for revenue to be generated. The Association of Chief Police Officers (now the National Police Chiefs Council) has said any surplus can be used by police forces for the purpose of “policing the road”. 

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