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Almost 4,000 submissions of driving offences to police force led to just 10 prosecutions, FOI request reveals

According to data published by Surrey Police, which uses a third-party reporting service, almost 80% of the close pass reports resulted in just a warning letter

Of the 3,898 allegations of driving offences, including close passes, using a mobile phone or careless driving, submitted in the last 15 months until March, only 10 resulted in a prosecution, an FOI request has revealed.

According to the latest data published by Surrey Police which uses a third-party reporting service to collect video footage evidence, at the time of the publishing of data, over 3,000 cases had achieved an outcome, and more than half of the offences were resolved with a warning letter.

These included 938 instances of close pass submissions, with only three resulting in a prosecution, four in a penalty notice and four being offered a driver improvement course. In contrast, 742 cases, almost 80 per cent of the total, were resolved with a warning letter.

The news comes a month after we reported that another FOI request had revealed that out of the 286 submissions to West Midlands Police, the force which pioneered ‘close pass’, resulted in just one prosecution, with 213 reports of careless or dangerous driving around cyclists last year resulting in no further action being taken.

> 286 close pass submissions to West Midlands Police resulted in one prosecution, FOI request reveals

Similarly, in Surrey, almost half the reports resulted in no further action. An active travel Twitter account from Surrey compiled the data and wrote: “Like many other members of the public, especially vulnerable road users, I started recording my journeys after a few incidents where I was put in danger by people driving aggressively and carelessly, which left me in fear for my safety, and that of my family.

“I’m grateful that Surrey Police provides a third party reporting service; knowing that my local force “has my back” and that there will be consequences for dangerous driving behaviour on Surrey’s roads gives me more confidence when travelling.

“But it goes further than this. If motorists (who are responsible for the vast majority of Road Danger) realise it’s more likely there will be meaningful consequence for dangerous behaviour, Surrey’s roads will become safer for everyone. And reduce demand on many public services.”

Surrey Police FOI data (image: @CyclingSurrey)

Of the cases which have so far resulted in an outcome, 1,245 were related to “driving without due care”, one of the “fatal five” offences when driving. Of these, only 514 resulted in further action being taken by the force, with 459 cases in which a warning letter was sent, and 55 resulting in a driving improvement course, or more.

In a comparable manner, of the 318 cases of using a mobile phone or not being in proper control of your car — another one of the fatal five offences, led to 178 warning letters and seven penalty notices.

With West Midlands Police first, and now Surrey Police choosing to not proceed with almost half of the total allegations submitted for poor driving, cyclists who spot such instances, or worse, experience them at the risk of personal injury or worse could be discouraged from reaching out to the force and looking for proper action.

Richard Broughton, a cyclist from Farnborough near Surrey said: “It is hardly surprising that I have seen driving standards decrease around here when the police are letting these bad drivers off with warnings or less. The data its very discouraging.”

Another cyclist from Surrey wrote on Twitter: It’s great that Surrey Police have online reporting but it’s a complete waste of resources if they are only going to send out slap on the wrist warning letters to drivers.”

In fact, a cyclist from Birmingham, who experienced a near-miss earlier this month told “Previously I've submitted footage to them that have resulted in me having to go to court appearances, so I've always spoken positively about the police. But recently, I sent in a few submissions and didn't hear back from them. That's when I was getting a bit suspicious and then I saw the Freedom of Information report.”

> What to do if you capture a near miss or close pass (or worse) on camera while cycling

And in February, one Coventry-based cyclist claimed that a motorist – who committed an extreme close pass on him before slamming on his brakes and appearing to deliberately reverse into the rider – escaped punishment because an officer from the force’s Traffic Investigation Unit deemed that the collision was not captured clearly enough in the video. reader James said that he had originally submitted the clip to WMP’s ‘Non-Stop Self Reporting Collision Form’. After receiving no response for several months, he later contacted the force’s Traffic Investigation Unit, who asked him to resubmit the footage.

However, while James claimed that an officer informed him that there was no “clear video” of the collision, West Midlands Police told that the driver was not prosecuted simply because the two-week window for issuing a Notice of Intended Prosecution had expired by that point, and that the cyclist was invited to “pursue an allegation of assault”.

> Have West Midlands Police lost their way on cycling?

Even Surrey Police’s data reveals that in more than 1,000 cases, no further action was taken because there was insufficient evidence.

Cycling Surrey, the account which analysed the data, said: "My ask is that that Chief Constable Tim De Meyer takes his recent appointment as an opportunity to properly review current investment in third-party reporting, consults with road safety experts, and considers its potential benefits to Surrey Police in the widest possible context.” has reached out to Surrey Police for a comment.

Adwitiya joined in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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KentRider | 1 year ago

Here in Kent, I would be delighted if 80% of my close-pass reports led to "only" a warning letter. That would be a huge improvement on the present situation in which 100% lead to no action whatsoever. The current version of the Kent Police traffic incident reporting form has no facility for uploading video footage. The only way for Kent Police to see the evidence of what happened is if they send a follow-up request for it. And they base their decision as to whether they want to see it on the written description alone. One section of the form asks whether there was a collision. If the answer is no, they won't ask for the footage.

In other words, it is their policy to not take action on close passes, regardless of how dangerous the driving was. They have confirmed this to me in an email.

Safety | 1 year ago

Would it be possible for Road CC to request an objective interview with one or more of these forces? Perhaps we could then better understand the reasons for such a high percentage of NFAs. From this understanding decide how best to proceed in trying to improve the situation.
While they are at it they could also ask Polis Scotland why they still obstinately refuse to provide a portal.

Rome73 | 1 year ago

Not surprising really. I don't know whether it is lack of resources or indifference or a combination of the two. 

open_roads replied to Rome73 | 1 year ago
1 like

It can't be lack of resource - the number of warranted police officers is at a record high.

Given the pretty impressive turnaround of Greater Manchester Police (in around 2 years with no additional funding), the rather difficult conclusion is that most forces are failing because of the uselessness of their leaders, absence of strategy,  failure to prioritise and inability to steward their resources effectively.


Secret_squirrel replied to open_roads | 1 year ago
open_roads replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
1 like

you're referring to old data.

- the current police officer headcount in England and Wales (149,572 officers) as at 31 March 2023, is the highest number of police officers on record since comparable records began

- the current headcount is 3,542 (2.4%) greater than the previous peak of 146,030 officers in post as at 31 March 2010



Awavey | 1 year ago

I dont think its correct to say only 10 resulted in a prosecution, a court appearance is just one outcome from a potential prosecution, a warning letter has to pass the same evidential threshold as a case taken to court its just the outcome and penalties applied are different. The NFAs are the ones that arent taken further, and represent about 1/3rd of the total, which is probably par for most forces stats Id suspect.

Rendel Harris replied to Awavey | 1 year ago
Awavey wrote:

I dont think its correct to say only 10 resulted in a prosecution, a court appearance is just one outcome from a potential prosecution, a warning letter has to pass the same evidential threshold as a case taken to court its just the outcome and penalties applied are different. 

Respectfully, that's not the case: a warning letter is sent out as an alternative to a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP); once an NIP has been sent the options are education course, FPN or court action. A warning letter is in lieu of a prosecution, not an outcome of one.

Awavey replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago

Im not saying a warning letter IS a prosecution, Im saying it has to pass the same evidential threshold as a prosecution, because if it doesnt then its straight to NFA, it is still police action as the result of a submission even if it doesnt result in the legally defined NIP points/courses/fines courts process etc, the police still technically view it as positive outcome, and the courts couldnt handle 2544 extra cases in a year, which might highlight why warning letters tend to get used as an outcome.

so I just dont think its correct to frame this as "only 10 of these submissions resulted in a prosecution", because it implies the police just ignored the rest of these, which they didnt.

For one thing driver improvement course are the result of a NIP, so why arent those 24 being counted in with the 10 ?

and do fixed penalties also no longer count ? so all of CyclingMikeys stats can now be distilled into only how many court cases he's had ? has he been to court 800 times in the past 5 years ?


NOtotheEU | 1 year ago

I hate seeing those close pass mats being used badly. The 1.5m should start at the widest part of the bike/cyclist and end at the edge of the **** mirror.  There should also not be a measured distance to the kerb as this will always be different depending on the cyclist and conditions and most drivers aren't intelligent enough to understand, let alone comply.

RicCycleCoach | 1 year ago
1 like

I'm still waiting to hear back from Sussex Police - I've done an FOI on this

wtjs replied to RicCycleCoach | 1 year ago

I'm still waiting to hear back from Sussex Police - I've done an FOI on this

It won't do you any good! Sussex is one of the forces following the Lancashire Constabulary dodgy OpSnap model, which involves no prosecutions, lying about what they've done and refusing to disclose anything about anything. Cutting a long story short: see the most recent item on here, which is about this offence. I now have the Information Commissioner's Decision Notice dated 3.5.23, Ref: IC-225713-W2Y2. Oddly, this is not available on the Information Commissioner website, despite them being published up to the decision date of 10th May. Maybe they hold back when they think it's going to the Information Tribunal, which it is.

If you want to find out what the police actually did, when they claim to have taken action, this DN is important, because there will be numerous cases where they did nothing at all or, at best, sent out the joke warning letter for the offender to hang on a nail in the toilet.

This is the top of the DN, verbatim:

1. The complainant has requested information about an incident he reported, from Lancashire Constabulary. Lancashire Constabulary would neither confirm nor deny (“NCND") holding the requested information, citing section 40(5) (Personal information) of FOIA.
2. The Commissioner’s decision is that Lancashire Constabulary was entitled to rely on section 40(5) of FOIA. No steps are required

What it means is: when the police tell you they're 'taking action', and you try to find out what the action was, they refuse to tell you, claiming that they can't even confirm that they have any idea what the police did! It's even possible, given the institutionalised ineptitude at Lancashire Constabulary that they really don't know!

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