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Near Miss of the Day 473: Nottinghamshire Police now treating close passes as ‘victimless crime’

Recent working group recommendation potentially paves way for other forces to follow suit

Today’s near misses have revealed a change in policy at Nottinghamshire Police where close passes and other near misses are apparently now being treated as a ‘victimless crime’. The force now treats cyclists submitting helmet cam footage as merely witnesses following a recent recommendation from a national working group.

The Victims Code of Conduct sets out the minimum services that must be provided to victims of crime by organisations including police forces. This includes the right to be kept informed about the progress of any investigation as well as the outcome.

A victim of crime is defined as someone who has suffered harm – including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss – which was directly caused by a criminal offence.

The majority of police forces have up until now treated cyclists who have submitted footage of close passes or other near misses as victims. However, Nottinghamshire Police appears to have recently changed its position, meaning cyclists are instead being treated as merely ‘witnesses’ – which means they will not be updated.

Cycling UK have previously said that in treating a cyclist submitting evidence as only a witness, police are implying that their report isn’t been taken seriously.

road.cc reader Philip recently sent us the footage above. He has previously received updates about his reports from Nottinghamshire Police, but was this week informed of a change in policy in how such cases would be dealt with.

An officer from the force informed him: “With regards to your requests for an update from the footage you have uploaded, unfortunately due to GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, I am unable to supply you with the outcome.

“The reason for this is that your footage contains the vehicle registration of the offending person, and registration plates are classed as personal data, i.e. they can be used to trace the identity of someone. 

“Moreover, although it has clearly affected you, you are not strictly classed as a ‘victim’, rather you are classed as a ‘witness’ to the offence.

“What this means is that you fall outside of the Victims code and there is no requirement to update you. Indeed by updating you, we are effectively telling you the outcome for the offending driver (another person), who could be traced via their registration plates, and consequently we would be breaking the law in terms of data protection and GDPR.”

Explaining the change, the officer said that a national working group had recently been looking into the issue.

They then quoted the group’s resultant recommendation, which may well be interpreted in a similar way by other forces.

Informants should be classified as witnesses. Several forces have sought advice on the legal position of providing updates to informants. There has been advice provided that to provide detailed updates on each case goes against the principles of GDPR and DPA and could be considered as providing identifiable personal data. As witnesses informants do not fall within the scope of VCOP and shouldn’t be provided with updates. Where cases are progressed to court then witnesses will be notified where their attendance and evidence is required and they will be able to observe proceedings once they have given evidence and updates once the court results are made public.

Commenting on this matter previously, Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at Cycling UK said: “Many cyclists reporting close passes and other incidents will have been shaken, distressed, and frightened by what’s happened, so the careless or dangerous driving isn’t victimless.

“It’s really disappointing that a few police forces are applying a narrow interpretation of the Code, to avoid providing information to people endangered by someone else’s driving. The refusal to do so implies that their report isn’t been taken seriously, because there’s no victim.”

> Near Miss of the Day turns 100 - Why do we do the feature and what have we learnt from it?

Over the years road.cc has reported on literally hundreds of close passes and near misses involving badly driven vehicles from every corner of the country – so many, in fact, that we’ve decided to turn the phenomenon into a regular feature on the site. One day hopefully we will run out of close passes and near misses to report on, but until that happy day arrives, Near Miss of the Day will keep rolling on.

If you’ve caught on camera a close encounter of the uncomfortable kind with another road user that you’d like to share with the wider cycling community please send it to us at info [at] road.cc or send us a message via the road.cc Facebook page.

If the video is on YouTube, please send us a link, if not we can add any footage you supply to our YouTube channel as an unlisted video (so it won't show up on searches).

Please also let us know whether you contacted the police and if so what their reaction was, as well as the reaction of the vehicle operator if it was a bus, lorry or van with company markings etc.

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

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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41 comments

Avatar
keef bike 63 | 3 years ago
0 likes

So does that mean the DVLA are about to be prosecuted under GDPR regulations for sharing information related to MOT/Tax, or perhaps that won't happen as it used to be a Police job and they dont have the resources.

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Podc replied to keef bike 63 | 3 years ago
0 likes

I had a parking fine sent to me when a parking enforcement camera read someone else's numberplate incorrectly. I queried with the DVLA why they had given my personal details out to a private parking enforcement company without my permission and suggested this might be a breach of GDPR. They replied it wasn't because, basically, they are allowed to. I let it go.

 

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bobrayner replied to Podc | 3 years ago
0 likes

The full text of GDPR is enormous because it's full of nuances and exemptions and additional considerations for things like law enforcement (and research and public health and and and). I'm OK with DVLA's current setup, where they have defined schemes for identifying drivers (to 3rd parties that are in the scheme) in defined ways, such as parking charges and speed cameras and insurance stuff.

However I think DVLA have really been behind the curve on driving license verification.

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grOg | 3 years ago
0 likes

'Indeed by updating you, we are effectively telling you the outcome for the offending driver (another person), who could be traced via their registration plates, and consequently we would be breaking the law in terms of data protection and GDPR.' Drivers can't be identified via their registration plate - that can only be used to identify the registered owner; typical copper cop-out.

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TagRed | 3 years ago
1 like

Particularly interested in this near miss as these clips are from very near where I live. The second one is on my own regular routes and I can testify to how often I've been passed too close here too.

In one particular example, there was a supermarket delivery truck parked in the opposite lane and someone still chose the same point as in this second clip to overtake, squeezing me right into the kerb. 100 yards ahead is a give way so I'm really not sure what the rush was...

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Jem PT | 3 years ago
1 like

I'm confused.

If someone hits me with a basebal bat am I a victim or a witness?

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hawkinspeter replied to Jem PT | 3 years ago
6 likes
Jem PT wrote:

I'm confused.

If someone hits me with a basebal bat am I a victim or a witness?

Depends on whether you're on a bike at the time

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grOg replied to Jem PT | 3 years ago
0 likes

The whole point of the article is that near misses aren't the same as actually being hit and injured by a vehicle - a near miss is not a crime.. it may be a traffic offence to which the cyclist is a witness; does that help?

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OnYerBike | 3 years ago
6 likes

I would be interested to read the full report, but if it is published and publically available, my google-fu isn't good enough.

I have just ordered a camera after experiencing dangerous driving on a far too regular occurence. I don't know what Police Scotland's current policy is, but any time I feel like I have been personally endangered by another's driving, I expect to be treated as a victim and will escalate through the complaints system any such report where they try to fob my off as just a witness.

That said, there are crimes which I may feel like I would genuinely be a witness - e.g. mobile phone use, jumping a red light or deliberately encroaching an ASL. On the other hand, I doubt I would bother to report most of these crimes as if I make a report for every crime I witness, it would take up all day!

I find Nottingham Police's approach particularly disappointing. They even state "it has clearly affected you". Do they mean it has clearly caused you mental or emotional harm? If so, by their own admission, you are "strictly" a victim!

The GDPR line is also ludicrous. If you submitted the footage, then you already know their registration number! Not to mention the fact that by their very nature registration numbers are publically available information. Providing an update along the lines of "The driver of the vehicle has been identified and charged" does not reveal any more personal information than you already have.

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wtjs replied to OnYerBike | 3 years ago
2 likes

That said, there are crimes which I may feel like I would genuinely be a witness - e.g. mobile phone use, jumping a red light

Correct, of course. My total of 10 MG11 witness statements made for court prosecution should be going up to 14 after today's blitz, which included a Lancashire County Council Highways vehicle, a large white van labelled Scrap Lads and a black Range Rover charging across at 60- no BMW, to my surprise

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Phil99 | 3 years ago
1 like

Cambridgeshire police used the "not a victim"/"data protection" excuse last year on me after submitting a close pass video:

"When we receive your report you are a witness to a road traffic offence and as such you are not a victim. Therefore we are not in a position to disclose the outcome of any action we take."

"We appreciate that you were shaken by the incident but we also have to adhere to the rules around data protection."

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Eton Rifle | 3 years ago
1 like

Sadly, this does not surprise me at all. Up until last summer, Avon & Somerset used to keep a submitter of video footage updated on progress. Then they opted for the "GDPR" bullshit.

Working groups like this enable forces to share wheezes to minimise admin. Hopefully they also enable sharing best practice in some instances but, with a decade of Tory budget cuts, I know which is the more likely use of them.

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Sriracha replied to Eton Rifle | 3 years ago
3 likes

Then someone should sue the pants off them for their earlier transgressions against GDPR - ignorance is no excuse, and the law is not subject to policy.

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Jetmans Dad replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
0 likes
Sriracha wrote:

Then someone should sue the pants off them for their earlier transgressions against GDPR - ignorance is no excuse, and the law is not subject to policy.

Not really. That is where the classification bit comes in. If they were previously treating the recipients of a close pass as a victim then there is no GDPR transgression in keeping them informed. If that then changes and the recipient is reclassified as a witness, and therefore not to be kept informed, then there is no problem under GDPR. 

The change in classification does not render what they did before reclassification as a breach, just because it is one afterwards. 

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Sriracha replied to Jetmans Dad | 3 years ago
1 like

Surely the difference between victim and witness is one of fact not opinion. Either they were wrong before, or they are wrong now.

But if, as you say, the difference is down to opinion then it can be challenged.

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hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
13 likes

I think the way to deal with this creeping problem of police forces not communicating their action to us is to raise a complaint each time they do it.

I'm going to wait until the next close pass that I consider worth submitting and if they give me the witness blurb again, I'll raise a complaint about them not treating me as a victim. That way, they'll end up with more complaints than if they just let us know what they're doing (which I think is a perfectly reasonable requirement).

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eburtthebike replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
3 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

I think the way to deal with this creeping problem of police forces not communicating their action to us is to raise a complaint each time they do it. I'm going to wait until the next close pass that I consider worth submitting and if they give me the witness blurb again, I'll raise a complaint about them not treating me as a victim. That way, they'll end up with more complaints than if they just let us know what they're doing (which I think is a perfectly reasonable requirement).

Nasty man!  Love it.heart

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Supers79 | 3 years ago
3 likes

Well this is a change.  A couple of years ago I reported a driver who almost knocked me off (with a witness) police sent me a letter a few weeks later telling me they didn't have enough evidence but with the drivers full name and address on; almost willing me to go and slash his tyres. 

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brooksby | 3 years ago
6 likes

So have we now passed into the Silver Age of cycling...?

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Luca Patrono | 3 years ago
5 likes

It would appear the only way this is going to change is if people take the law into their own hands. The same thing always happens when police refuse to do their jobs. As bikes lack the implied destructive power and personal shielding provided by a motor vehicle, their riders are utterly reliant on the police and the law to provide the missing protection.

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Mungecrundle | 3 years ago
9 likes

Not really interested in finding out the result of submitting a specific complaint. Exceedingly interested in knowing that video submissions in general are being followed up and that drivers are being dealt with appropriately. That surely is a freedom of information request along the lines of how many submissions are being made and the percentages of follow up options or non action.

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Hirsute replied to Mungecrundle | 3 years ago
4 likes

Should not even be a foi. They should publish the stats as part of their annual statement.

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wtjs replied to Mungecrundle | 3 years ago
3 likes

That surely is a freedom of information request along the lines of how many submissions are being made and the percentages of follow up options or non action

You couldn't trust any general reply from the police either to a FoI request or in any annual statement. There are too many ways for them to dodge in the statistics. Specific knowledge of the response in specific incidents (and outside the police, only the reporter will know the details) is the only way to go, and this topic shows they're trying to close that 'loophole'. It took me  many months and appeals in a FoI process to establish that Lancashire Constabulary has never prosecuted anyone for close-passing a cyclist- in effect, they were unable to demonstrate that they had prosecuted anyone for that offence!  There is now supposed to be a pending court case, though- mine, for a close-passing incident on 30.9.19. We shall see if it actually goes to court. The police want blood on the road before they will even begin to take an offence against a cyclist seriously- I want points on the licence before I take the police response seriously

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wtjs | 3 years ago
5 likes

It's just a dodge to save work by discouraging incident reports from the people the police really hate- people who report incidents. Hence the other dodges, like 'you must have X minutes of video before and after the offence', which they have simply made up!

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Secret_squirrel | 3 years ago
12 likes

The GDPR stuff is bullshit, number plates are public domain and merely identify a car, not a driver.  Updates can be provided without any leakage of personal data, all the cyclist needs to know is that the driver has been appropriately punished or the investigation is ongoing.

 

I'd like to know the name of the working group and the exact context of their advice, suspect someone is either accidentally or deliberately adding 2+2 and getting 27. 

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cczmark replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 years ago
1 like

Agreed - I call BS on this as well.

From law.stackexchange..the registration number and VIN are both information about a vehicle and not about a person, and therefore on their own would not qualify as personal data under GDPR

Any outcome provided by a force does not need to (and probably should not) contain the personal info.

 

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cbrndc | 3 years ago
1 like

So how do I identify somebody from the VIN? Only the police can do that.

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Secret_squirrel replied to cbrndc | 3 years ago
0 likes

 Not sure what you mean a number plate is not a VIN. 

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Hirsute replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 years ago
2 likes

I took it that they considered it synonymous.  I don't see how an individual could get the name/address. Parking companies and Councils could though.

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/guide-to-t...

Although the plate could be used, the link shows it is clear only with "other information that then distinguishes and allows for the identification of an individual."

So basically BS.

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Glen C | 3 years ago
8 likes

A by-product of the approach seems likely to be a reduction of evidence submitted by cyclists - after all if they are going to receive no feedback then it seems more likely that they will think 'why bother' (perhaps assuming that nothing will be done about it anyway.  This is a win for the police who will then be rewarded to for the reduction in reported crime statistics for their area with less work to do. A great demonstration of efficient policing.🤔

I'm definitely not someone who is anti-police but this does seem to be a short-sighted policy decision.

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