Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')
As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held at the time of a request, by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.
I want to request information on the effectiveness of the speed camera sited on the A1068, at Willow Bridge, in Choppington. Could you please tell me;
- When this was installed
- How many speeding drivers it catches in a year
- What the difference is between the speeding concerns or reports prior to this camera being installed and the problem now
- Whether you see this area as an accident blackspot, either currently or prior to the camera being installed
Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Road Safety Unit of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held in part by Northumbria Police.
I am able to disclose the located information to you as follows.
1. The site was established on 1 March 1996. To confirm the exact date the camera was installed you would need to refer to Northumberland County Council for that information.
2. This information will not be disclosed as the below exemption has been considered and applied as relevant:
Section 31(1)(a)(b) - Law Enforcement
Section 31 of the Act (Law Enforcement) states that information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to prejudice:
(a) The prevention or detection of crime
(b) The apprehension or prosecution of offenders
This exemption is a qualified and prejudice based exemption and therefore the legislators accept that there may be harm if released into the public domain. The authority has to consider and describe the harm that would occur if the information were released and carry out a public interest test. In accordance with best practice, I detail the harm first.
To disclose information detailing how many drivers are caught speeding per year would indicate the use of such resources available to Northumbria Police to deal with speeding offences. The release of such information would identify camera activity and with it any perceived abilities to monitor such offences. Those with the intent to do so may then be under the impression that their speeding offences are less likely to be caught. This would obviously impact on the Police service’s ability to protect the public it serves and could prejudice its ability to perform core functions such as Law Enforcement.
Safety cameras are not always active and the Police rely on the perception by drivers that camera housings could be active and would therefore adjust their speed so as not to contract a fine. The release of such detail would diminish the effectiveness of safety cameras and undermine police enforcement as it could allow members of the public to paint a picture of when and how likely they are to be caught speeding. The release of such information would diminish the deterrent the cameras have.
Speeding above the stated limit is an offence and withholding this information from the public ensures that any driver who exceeds the speed limit would maintain the perception that they are risking criminal liability.
Public Interest Test
Factors favouring disclosure
The release of the information would demonstrate the openness of the organisation to make such matters public. Disclosure would contribute to the accuracy and quality of public debate and allow the public to know what resources are being utilised in their areas.
Factors favouring non-disclosure
As per the harm addressed above - Disclosing the requested information would inform those with disregard for the law, whether their speeding is more or less likely to be caught on camera. This could then have an impact on the safety of other motorist if the perception is that they are unlikely to be caught speeding. As above – Safety cameras are not always active and the Police rely on the perception by drivers that camera housings could be active and would therefore adjust their speed so as not to contract a fine. It is not in the public interest to lose the deterrent effect the cameras have.
Having considered both sides of the public interest, it is considered that the balance favours non-disclosure of the information requested. Whilst this information may be of interest to the public, it is not in the public interest to put into the public domain number of active cameras, inactive cameras and broken or out of order cameras. This would provide those with intent to do so the knowledge as to the likelihood of being caught exceeding the speed limits.
Public safety is paramount and we would not disclose any information which could jeopardise the safety of road users or other members of the public. Such disclosures would always be resisted.
You should consider this to be a refusal notice under section 17 of the Act for this part of your request.
3. No Information Held. To establish a ‘difference’ you need two sets of data, in this case both before the camera was installed and as it is ‘now’. We will have a record of any current concerns reported to us but nothing before the camera was installed 26 years ago.
4. No Information Held. We do not hold anything in a recordable format showing locations as a blackspot as that is a matter of opinion. A ‘blackspot’ is a location where accidents have historically occurred and there have been accidents recorded at that location both before the camera was installed and more recently, however it is still based on opinion whether we consider this place a ‘blackspot’ in comparison to other locations. The term historically is not defined into a given number of years nor is the number of accidents that have to have occurred defined, therefore opinion has to be used.
If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.
Due to the different methods of recording information across 43 forces, a specific response from one constabulary should not be seen as an indication of what information could be supplied (within cost) by another. Systems used for recording these figures are not generic, nor are the procedures used locally in capturing the data. For this reason responses between forces may differ, and should not be used for comparative purposes.
The information we have supplied to you is likely to contain intellectual property rights of Northumbria Police. Your use of the information must be strictly in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended) or such other applicable legislation. In particular, you must not re-use this information for any commercial purpose.