Road death investigation ‘overlooked and underfunded’ – RoadPeace

11.12 | 19 April 2018 | | 5 comments

The national charity for road crash victims is calling for more rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of road death investigation carried out by the UK’s police forces.

In a report published in November 2017, titled ‘Road death investigation: overlooked and underfunded’, RoadPeace looks at how road death investigation is resourced, and how standards are maintained and evaluated by the police.

It also includes RoadPeace’s assessment of how ‘thorough, impartial, effective and consistent road death investigation is perceived to be’.

The report forms part of a wider campaign for quality assurance in collision investigation, launched by RoadPeace on the back of statistics which revealed that while the number of fatal road collisions fell by 5% between 2010-2015, road death prosecutions dropped by a far greater margin of 23%. RoadPeace describes this as an ‘alarming trend’.

In the report RoadPeace says the police are not evaluated on the effectiveness of their road death investigation, with the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) annual inspection programme not covering collision investigation.

The only inspection of road death investigation conducted by the HMIC, published in 2015, included just six police areas and focused on cases leading to prosecution – which RoadPeace describes as ‘un-representative’ and ‘superficial’.

The report also found that national standards for road death investigation do not exist and guidance varies widely.

RoadPeace praises Police Scotland for updating the Road Death Investigation Manual, which was introduced by the Association of Chief Police Officers (now NPCC) in 2001.

However, the charity is more critical of the College of Policing’s guidance – used in England and Wales – which it says is far less detailed than the Police Scotland manual. The College of Policing is also criticised for ‘dropping reference to senior investigating officers leading road death investigations’.

The report concludes there is a lack of transparency with investigation procedures, resources and judicial outcomes – as these are not reported by police services.

RoadPeace says that while the Home Office monitors police numbers, including many specific functions, it does not record data regarding the number of collision investigators.

The charity says that responses to a FOI request showed a ‘wide variation in capacity, with several large police services unable to report the number of non-fatal collisions investigated by their specialist collision investigators’.

In the report’s conclusion, RoadPeace is calling for a national oversight group, similar to those already covering homicide and other key crimes.

It also calls for police guidance to be updated and to be made ‘consistent across the country’, with ‘best practice standards defined’.

RoadPeace is also urging the DfT to invest in ‘upskilling of police to ensure accurate reporting and investigation of collisions’.

In compiling the report, RoadPeace says it sought input from police and road safety professionals. A draft report was circulated to ensure its summary of the situation is ‘accurate’ and its recommendations are ‘practical’.


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    Yes I understood that Hugh and of your latest comments but you must also realise that its no longer the prerogative of a police officer or his commanding officer to decide on a prosecution. It may be recommended all the way up the line but if the CPS office cannot guarantee a conviction then it will never see the Courts.

    Believe it or not that happens a lot of the time. They want convictions by results and the only results they want are positive ones.

    Bob Craven
    Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

    Bob: I wasn’t referring to fatal collisions necessarily – the police are obliged to deal with them seriously obviously. My beef is where a non-fatal collision has been caused by exactly the same careless or dangerous behaviour, but where the police may not take it further, simply because the outcome (itself possibly due to no more than luck) was not fatal and therefore ‘not as serious’ and therefore no reason for further action i.e ‘just an accident’, ‘one of those things’, ‘no-one to really is to blame’.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

    Officers with Traffic depts. work very hard and are dedicated to the task. The challenge here is for the police locally and nationally to further prioritise roads policing resources and recognise that there is a great deal of intelligence within collision investigation that can be used to help prioritise resources more effectively.

    Nadeem Up North
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

    In the event of a death on our roads its the duty of the police to thoroughly investigate the accident through the traffic branch and report through the coroners officer to the Coroner who would wish to know certain facts so that a decision is made as to the cause of the death and also who can or may have been responsible. They take that duty very seriously as they are accountable to the local Coroner. Further to that if offences are discovered then the police would hand the details over to the Crown Prosecution Service and they decide as to whether any prosecution would take place and not the police. The same applies to the Coroner who can request that the Police take whatever action is suitable in the circumstances that offence or offences come to light in any enquiry that he makes. The Police are obliged to do any task that he wishes.

    Bob Craven
    Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

    I think there is a tendency for some police officers to regard some traffic collisions as ‘just an accident’ and therefore are not inclined to think about blame and possible further action. No doubt some officers are more dilligent than others in this regard and rightfully take the subject more seriously.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (9) | Disagree (5)

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