Date Responded 18 August 2021

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.

You asked:

I would like the following FOI questions answered; assume the questions relate to a 40 mph regulated area:-

  1.  Do conditions (ROTA 1988 s20 ss4) or circumstance (ss6) relate to the camera used for operational purposes?
  2.  Do conditions (ROTA 1988 s20 ss4) or circumstance (ss6) relate to the method used to layout the site for speed enforcement operations?
  3.  Do PACE codes have to be adhered to by officers whilst carrying out their speed enforcement duties?
  4.  Does a constabulary have to act fairly when operating static cameras, irrespective of the housing used
  5.  Does the layout of a speed enforcement location have to strictly adhere to NPCC speed camera guidelines?
  6.  Is visibility of the van-mounted static camera an operational requirement?
  7.  What are the operational requirements adopted by speed enforcement operatives?
  8.  The average speed cameras are highly visible; is that a requirement of the NPCC guidance?
  9.  The box mounted cameras are highly visible; is that a requirement of the NPCC guidance?
  10.  Must all Constabularies abide by Dft or ACPO guidelines (specifically visibility), to comply with RTOA 1988 s20 conditions and circumstances, associated with the operation and layout of HOTA approved devices.
  11.  Does the operation of speed enforcement equipment have to operated to accord with principles of the Human Rights Act s6 Article 6
  12.  Does the constabulary have a definition of condition and circumstance; with regard the RTOA 1988 s20 ss 4 and ss6.
  13.  Does the Constabulary use a speed enforcement camera to monitor car speed on the opposite carriageway of a dual carriageway, from the nearside verge of the other carriageway?
  14.  How does the Constabulary, define a single site for speed monitoring purposes?
  15.  On which verge should a mobile camera be sited when monitoring speeds?
  16.  What is maximum distance between the camera and an image, used for prosecution purposes, of a car being speed monitored?
  17.  What is minimum distance between the camera and an image, used for prosecution purposes, of a car being speed monitored?
  18.  What is the minimum standard distance for the static camera to be seen by the driver of the car being monitored?
  19.  Does every speed enforcement officer be conversant with the RTOA 1988 s20?
  20.  Does the layout of a speed enforcement operation have to accord with the Road Traffic Act Chapter 8?
  21.  When a temporary lower speed limit is enforced for specified reasons; does speed enforcement return to the regulated speed limit, when the specified circumstances no longer exist?
  22.  Does a speed enforcement van have the authority to interfere with a live carriageway, in order to undertake the enforcement monitoring activity?
  23.  How frequently is the van-mounted camera operated on Benton Lane, in the region of the Cat and dog shelter layby [offside], to detect speeds of cars travelling towards Newcastle.
  24.  How frequently is the van-mounted camera operated on Benton Lane, opposite the Cat and dog shelter [nearside], to detect speeds of cars travelling towards Newcastle
  25.  How frequently was the van-mounted camera operated on a dual carriageway; whereby the camera was detecting the speed of drivers on the opposite carriageway, from the nearside verge of the other carriageway?

In Response:

As you may be are aware, the FOIA is for information that is held in some form by a public authority.  Some of the questions are very broadly worded and potentially require a view or opinion to be given as opposed to specifically recorded information being provided.  Although the ICO consider questions as valid FOI requests, as per S84 of the act, only information held in a recorded format should be considered for the purposes of FOI.  This means views and opinions are not provided unless there is specific recorded information held in relation to the question asked.  Consequently I can advise that for the majority of your submission we hold no information.  This is relative to points 1-6, 8-12,14-20 and 22 of your request.

 

With regards to points 23 and 24, as this road is a 30 mph speed limit, and the lead into your questions specified ‘assume the questions relate to a 40 mph regulated area‘ a ‘not applicable’ response to those parts is relevant.  However you should note that these point would have been exempt under Section 31-Law Enforcement regardless.

 

In order to assist you, under Section 16 of the Act I have provided the links below which you may find useful as further to points 8 and 9:

NPCC Speed Enforcement Guidelines

Guide for the operational use of speed and red-light offence detection technology

And to further information that is already in the public domain at points 7 and 21:

Guide for the operational use of speed and red-light offence detection technology

Traffic safety measures and signs for road works and temporary situations (Section D3.7).

 

With regards to points 13 and 25 the following exemptions have been considered and applied:

Section 31(1)(a) - Law Enforcement

Section 38(1)(a) & (b) - Health & Safety

As Section 31 and Section 38 are prejudice-based, qualified exemptions there is the requirement for us to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not whether information is held as well as considering the public interest test.

 

Harm

To provide information about how speed enforcement cameras are utilised would inform the public, whether speeding offences can be detected on the opposite carriageway or not from where the camera is sited.  Release of safety camera capabilities would reveal tactical information about any such deployments and would identify any perceived weaknesses in camera activity.  The Police rely on the perception by drivers that cameras could be active and would therefore adjust their speed in compliance with the advised speed so as not to contract a fine.  This would diminish the effectiveness of safety cameras and undermine police enforcement.  It would also require an increased Police presence in the force area which would put an unnecessary strain on its resources, obviously impacting upon the Police service’s ability to protect the public it serves and could prejudice its ability to perform core functions such as Law Enforcement.

From a Health & Safety perspective, the NPCC Roads Policing Strategy ‘Policing our roads together’ 2018/21 advocates a safe systems approach in an effort to prevent fatal and serious collisions.  Safe Speeds is one of four key areas of enforcement activity known as the ‘Fatal 4’ (the others being Drink/drug driving, Seat belt use and use of mobile telephones while driving).  Inappropriate or illegal speed was reported as a contributing factor in more than 19% of fatal collisions in 2018 (281 out of 1456) https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/ras50-contributory-factors#speed-contributory-factors, which is why ‘speeding’ is a strategic priority for our force.

 

Public Interest Test

Factors Favouring Disclosure - Section 31(a)

Disclosure of this information would allow the public to better informed and understand the resources available to Northumbria Police as it seeks to continue the prevention of speeding offences on our roads and therefore maintain public safety.  It could also serve to reassurance the public that adequate resources are in place to detect those intent on exceeding the permitted speed thresholds and therefore protect the Community.

Factors Against Disclosure - Section 31(a)

Disclosing such information would greatly compromise law enforcement tactics as by putting into the public domain the abilities of speed cameras would hinder law enforcement and as such would be detrimental to the safety of the wider public.

Factors Favouring Disclosure - Section 38

Disclosing this information, would allow members of the public would be better informed about the measures taken by Northumbria Police, to actively prevent speeding offences on our roads and thus protect the community it serves.

Factors against Disclosure - Section 38

Disclosing such information would lead to those who are intent on doing so attempt to flaunt the law and therefore place the public at risk.

 

Balance Test

The Police is tasked with protecting the community we serve and there is a public interest argument in ensuring we are open and transparent with regard to how the force operate.  Whilst we attempt to provide as much information as possible this will only be done when no harm would be caused by the release of such information.

There is no doubt that for the issues outlined above, any disclosure of such information would jeopardise the important roles of safety cameras in our region.  Therefore it is our opinion that the balance of the public interest favours withholding the information.

You should consider this to be a refusal notice under Section 17 of the Act for those points of your request.

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