By Christopher Barrow
When reading this blog I ask politicians, Police Crime Commissioners (PCC), members of the judiciary, members of the sentencing council, in fact all decision makers, influencers and the general public the question:
“With an average of 5 people being killed on our roads every day how many road deaths are acceptable?”
Is it reasonable for the public to expect the justice system to focus on the rights of the victim?
I would suggest that the majority of people who have not experienced the justice system firsthand would answer yes. We expected this, however, having gone through the process, our experience with regards to road crime is that the victim has very little rights when compared to the offender.
All the blogs associated with the RoadPeace campaign “Fix Our Broken Justice System” highlight the extent to which our justice system is broken. However, writing focusing on the stated aim “Put Victims’ Rights First” has been particularly difficult as it becomes blindingly obvious that not only is our justice system broken, but it is all about supporting the offender, making every effort to get as much mitigation, excuses, as possible, thereby reducing the sentence, resulting in no justice and no deterrent. The scales of justice are always depicted as level, equal, but this is completely false. A more accurate depiction would be the scales being heavily weighted in favour of the offender.
I have decided to split the “Put Victims Rights First” blog into three distinct parts. Part 1 focuses on the Government’s responsibility to protect the “right to life”. Part 2 will focus on the roles of the advocates with part 3 focusing on the Sentencing Council.
Put Victims’ Rights First – Government responsibility to protect the right to life
Article 2 of the Human Rights Act protects your right to life. “This means that nobody, including the Government, can try to end your life. It also means the Government should take appropriate measures to safeguard life by making laws to protect you and, in some circumstances, by taking steps to protect you if your life is at risk. Public authorities should also consider your right to life when making decisions that might put you in danger or that affect your life expectancy.” Source
Article 2 states clearly that the Government has a clear responsibility to protect life, in my opinion Government is not fulfilling its duty and I ask the following questions:
· Do you think that Government is doing enough to better protect road users, particularly vulnerable road users?
o May 2020 the then Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published a report entitled “Road Policing: Not optional. An inspection of roads policing in England and Wales.” On page 10 there is a damming statement “… but we found that road safety isn’t prominent in the consciousness of many politicians, police leaders and the public.”
· Do you think that Government is funding the police force to enable them to better protect road users particularly vulnerable road users?
o In the same HMICFRS report page 23 has figures relating to budget cuts “… overall police functions cut by 6.1% however the reduction in road police is 34% in real terms” i.e. it seems like road policing is seen as an easy target.
· Do you think that Government should provide “ring fenced” police funding for road safety measures meaning that police forces cannot divert funds to other tasks?
o See HMICFRS comment regarding budgets above; road policing cut by 34%.
· Do you think police forces should have more standardisation, training, and cooperation between forces and partners and that all police forces should have a dedicated road traffic enforcement and investigation team of officers?
o Again the HMICFRS report findings are that this is not happening. Page 22 states “in some forces they are dedicated to enforcing road traffic law and investigating serious road traffic collisions. In others, the role is included in the duties of armed response officers. And some forces don’t have any dedicated roads policing officers at all.”
· Do you think that police forces should be mandated to take part in any national campaign initiative?
o Again quoting the HMICFRS report page 20 when the team established that the promotion of national campaigns “wasn’t very effective because forces aren’t obliged to take part.”.
· Do you think that with approximately 3200 road traffic police officers is enough to monitor approximately 250,000 miles of roads being used by approximately 40.8 million vehicles?
o How many vehicles are there in the United Kingdom? At the end of September 2022, there were 40.8 million licensed vehicles in the UK (33.2 million cars (81.3 per cent), 4.63 million LGVs (11.3 per cent), 0.54 million HGVs (1.3 per cent), 1.46 million motorcycles (3.6 per cent), 0.15 million buses & coaches (0.4 per cent) and 0.84 million other vehicles (2 per cent)) Source
o How many Road Policing Officers are there in 2020/21? England and Wales 4091, Wales 307 England and Wales excluding MPS 3270 Source
o What is the length of roads in Great Britain 2021? The total length of roads in Great Britain was estimated to be 247,800 miles. There were 31,900 miles of major road in Great Britain in 2021, consisting of: 2,300 miles of motorway (99% trunk, 1% principal) 29,500 miles of ‘A’ road (18% trunk, 82% principal) There were 216,000 miles of minor road in Great Britain in 2021, consisting of: 18,900 miles of ‘B’ road 197,100 miles of ‘C’ and ‘U’ roads. Source
· Do you think there is enough use of technology i.e. ANPR, or preferably average speed cameras?
o Panorama’s “Britain’s Killer Roads” aired 17/01/2022 established that Wiltshire and Northamptonshire had no working cameras stating that funding was the issue. I doubt very much that these are the only police forces not applying technology to keep us safe and help save lives.
o ANPR, or preferably average speed cameras would be self funding and although there are members of the public that argue that they are fund raising, a tax, for the police or local councils, surely if those funds are directed back into the police force, in particular road safety initiatives, that would be a good thing. o This new technology makes interesting reading Heads-Up Enforcement Solution | Acusensus
o Some argue that mobile speed camera vehicles are better than fixed cameras as they can be used to target particular “hot spots”. There are two problems with this approach. There is not enough mobile camera vehicles and, I would suggest, the police get approximately 20 minutes before road users know they are there. Especially when other drivers are warning drivers by flashing their lights which is, in fact, illegal.
o It never ceases to amaze me that there are members of the public that believe that catching people speeding, or using their mobile device whilst driving, using technology is an infringement of their civil liberty, believing that civil liberty gives them the right, the freedom, to break the law. Clearly these people have not been on the receiving end of a driver breaking the law. These people must realise that Speeding Drivers and drivers using a mobile device not only take lives they devastate lives across generations. I wonder if these same people would complain about CCTV footage that helped catch and convict people committing a criminal act, breaking the law, against them or their property.
· Regional Councils are responsible for speed limits excluding certain “A” roads and motorways. Do you think that Regional Councils are doing enough to protect the right to life for vulnerable road users particularly on rural roads?
o Somerset County Council states
§ “We are responsible for speed limits on all public roads in Somerset, except the M5 and trunk roads (A36 and A303). The reason for providing speed limits is to improve safety for all road users.” Source
o I would like to highlight the part “… improve safety for all road users.”
o Why is it that in Somerset we have rural roads that you cannot safely drive at 60mph and roads that are so narrow there are no white lines. Yet in both cases the national speed limit of 60mph applies.
o It is ironic that Somerset County Council see fit to reduce the speed limit on the majority of the A38 from 60mph to 40mph and the same reduction for the A370. These are “A” roads yet the narrow “B” roads and unclassified roads with there blind bends, hedgerows, trees, and concealed entrances remain at 60mph. Remember these roads are regularly used by cyclists, horse riders, dog walkers, runners, and walkers, all vulnerable users that warrant more protection. What is even more impossible to understand is that these “B” roads and unclassified roads have a speed limit just 10mph lower than the speed limit on our fastest roads, our motorways. Motorways where traffic flows in the same direction where vulnerable users, cyclists, horse riders, walkers, etc… are not allowed. Where is the logic, the common sense? Unbelievable.
Having read the blog what is your answer to the question: “With an average of 5 people being killed on our roads every day how many road deaths are acceptable?” Your first attempt will probably be greater than zero but now think again. What would the number be if it included your loved ones, your wife, husband, partner, son, daughter? I do not believe that anyone would think it should be greater than zero, they certainly have no concept of the pain, anguish, stress, devastation, and trauma road deaths cause. The link below, is Australian, but it illustrates the point very well. How would it be if we could create an updated version using members of the Sentencing Council, MP’s, PCC’s, Judges, and Advocates. Impossible I know but a nice thought.
Future blogs aim to address the following questions:
· Do you think the Sentencing Council is helping to protect road users by setting guidelines or introducing a system that provides justice, punishment, deterrent and consistency?
· Do you think that the justice system is helping to protect road users right to life by handing down sentences that deter?
Updated on: 13 February 2024