The theme of Day One of the RoadPeace Challenge 2023 is ‘Effective Collision Investigation.’
Thank you to Surrey Chief Fire Officer, Dan Quin, the National Fire Chiefs’ Council lead for Road Safety and Road Rescue for introducing today’s theme.
Collision investigation is the cornerstone of justice and key to delivering safer roads. Collision investigation should be thorough, impartial, effective and consistent.
Collision investigation expert, Mark Crouch, Head of Investigations at Forensic Collision Investigation and Reconstruction Ltd (FCIR) and Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Cox, of the Metropolitan Police, discuss why effective collision investigation is so vital for the police and victims of road crime:
Here, collision investigation expert, Mark Crouch MSci., CPhys, ChFP (Collision), AAE, FInstP, FCSFS, FIMI, FIHE, MITAI, Head of Investigations at Forensic Collision Investigation and Reconstruction Ltd (FCIR) tells us why Effective Collision Investigation is so vital. FCIR is the Principal Sponsor of the RoadPeace Challenge 2023.
Effective Collision Investigation
By Mark Crouch
Like any crime scene, evidence gathering is a truly ‘one shot’ event. As soon as a road is reopened, vital evidence is irretrievably lost. Therefore, it is vital that a forensic specialist is deployed to the scene of a collision, and that they are suitably equipped and given the time to gather all of the data appropriately.
Nearly every element of a scientific analysis hinges upon the evidence gathered from the scene, and therefore it is paramount that the scene work is done correctly. This includes the preservation and appropriate capture of digital forensic data, such as CCTV and data stored within the vehicle itself.
Indeed, digital data is an area that is rapidly expanding within the field of collision investigation, and its frequency is only going to increase with the introduction of autonomous vehicles.
Make no mistake – the full investigation, analysis and interpretation of collision scene data is time-consuming. It must not be rushed. Thoroughly considering the physical evidence takes many, many hours. It would be easy for an investigator to simply say ‘you just can’t say what happened’, but there is nearly always a way to identify the circumstances of a collision.
It may be the case that a Collision Investigator can only reach a conclusion on the balance of probability, rather than being in a position where they are certain they can prove what occurred. It is, however, important to report the certainty to which conclusions can be reached, not only so this can be assessed against the criminal or civil standard of proof, but also to help a grieving family understand the circumstances under which their loved ones were injured or died.
Imagine the situation: a Collision Investigator working in the criminal forum could identify the likely circumstances of the collision, but not to the point at which they were certain. They have a choice, to say that they are ‘unable to say’ how the collision occurred with the requisite degree of certainty for a criminal charge, or to complete a report detailing what is most likely and the suitable rationale.
It may be the case that neither of those result in a charge being laid by the CPS – however, there is a very different outcome for a family. One gives them answers they so desperately seek, then the other does not. Of course, compelling arguments can be made for either of the two approaches above based on finances and workloads – but these do not take into account the moral argument.
Updated on: 15 May 2023