Fall in prosecution rates for drivers in fatal road crashes, claims charity07 April 2017
Figures from charity RoadPeace suggest prosecution and conviction rates fell between 2010 and 2015.
The number of drivers prosecuted and convicted for causing fatal road collisions has fallen 23 per cent in five years, according to charity RoadPeace, which provides support for those who have been bereaved or injured in road collisions.
Data shared with BBC Radio 5 Live by RoadPeace, showed while prosecutions and convictions had gone up overall in England and Wales between 2014 and 2015, numbers were down by 23 per cent in road traffic cases between 2010 and 2015. It also found traffic policing levels in England and Wales had fallen nearly 40 per cent between 2005 and 2014, from 7,100 to 4,350.
Despite five people dying on UK roads every day, RoadPeace told the BBC it believes police are increasingly reluctant to investigate fatal collisions because, they “are not evaluated on their collision investigation performance”, which means it is “not a priority”. RoadPeace pointed to a lack of national standards for collision investigation and “weakened guidance” on how police evaluate their investigations’ effectiveness.
"...knowing the police are doing all they can to ensure justice is done […], can be a significant source of comfort."
But Steve Barry, an assistant chief constable at Sussex Police and the National Police Chief’s Council lead for collision investigations, told the BBC he did not believe fewer traffic police had affected the prosecution and conviction rates. While he supported the creation of a UK road collision investigation branch, a suggestion from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), he said there is now a different approach to road safety that is “less focused on enforcement and prosecution” and more focused on education about road safety.
The Department of Transport said while Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and in 2015 had the second lowest total of road fatalities on record, it was “determined to do more” and cited tougher penalties on drivers caught using their phone, as well as moves to ease prosecutions for drug- and drink-drivers.
Thompsons Solicitors supported John and Janet Thompson after their 27-year-old son, Jake, was hit and killed on a pedestrian crossing by a speeding lorry driver in Bristol. The investigation by Avon and Somerset Police suffered a series of delays, with the Crown Prosecution Service initially saying there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the driver. After significant pressure from the family, the police re-opened the case but in 2014, a judge ruled in court there was no case to answer.
In an interview with the BBC, John Thompson was critical of the original investigation, noting how the police force “hadn’t followed up on certain key leads like CCTV evidence” and “hadn’t checked the driver’s medical history”. He said he felt “hurt” and “disappointed”.
David Robinson, a specialist road traffic collision solicitor at Thompsons who worked with the Thompsons and is chair of RoadPeace North East, said: “When a family loses a loved one in a road traffic collision, knowing the police are doing all they can to ensure justice is done and that no one else needlessly suffers the same pain, can be a significant source of comfort.
“These figures remind us that while the UK’s roads are deemed relatively safe on a global scale, too many lives are still lost every day in fatal road collisions.
“While police efforts to improve road safety awareness in the UK are to be applauded, drivers also need to know that if they kill they will be hounded by a proficient investigatory process. These investigations must be consistent, transparent and evaluated.
“Unfortunately, repeated cuts to police budgets are only going to further stretch resources and make devoting time to investigating such cases more challenging.”
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