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Police force criticised for one close pass prosecution from 286 submissions admits need to review how reports are managed

West Midlands Police said each report takes an average of 60 minutes to be assessed but accepted the need to adapt given the "50 per cent increase in third-party reporting"...

West Midlands Police's processing of public-reported video footage showing driving offences "is currently under review", the force admitted, after it recently came under criticism when a news story on this website revealed that 286 cyclist close pass submissions had resulted in just one prosecution.

Data released by the force in response to a Freedom of Information request, by Chris Smith, showed that of the 286 reports of careless, inconsiderate, or dangerous driving around cyclists considered by West Midlands Police in 2022, only one resulted in a prosecution. Of the alleged close passes, 213 resulted in no further action, while 69 were offered a National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) course as an alternative to prosecution.

The FOI request also showed that 5,551 submissions of video evidence relating to potential driving offences were received by West Midlands Police in 2022, over 2,000 more than the number submitted in 2020, and almost 1,800 more than 2021.

Hinting at the strain on resources, West Midlands Police noted that reviews take an "average of 60 minutes to run from receipt to conclusion", and are currently carried out by three business support assistants.

However, in a statement given to Birmingham Live, the force has now accepted the need to adapt to the increased submissions and said "this process is currently under review".

"We have seen a 50 per cent increase in third-party reporting over the last two years. This process is currently under review around how we can manage the rise in these submissions," a spokesperson said.

"We are committed to keeping our roads and road users including cyclists and pedestrians across the West Midlands safe. In 2016, we introduced 'Operation Close Pass' an initiative that targets drivers who endanger cyclists by driving without due care and attention.

"The initiative not only enforces safety on our roads, but it also educates drivers. We continue to carry out these operations and have some planned along the Chester Road area in the coming weeks.

"We also have an online portal on our website where members of the public can upload evidence of irresponsible driving such as photo or video footage. The material is then reviewed to see if it breaches road safety and if it does, we will look to seek prosecution."

Near Miss of the Day 846

"More support would improve the level of feedback, improve the quality of submitted videos and raise confidence in the system"

When the extent of the lack of prosecutions was revealed in April, the West Midlands' cycling and walking commissioner Adam Tranter wrote to the force's chief constable, Simon Guildford, raising concerns.

Tranter did not receive a reply but explained how he had praised the force's previously innovative road safety work such as Operation Close Pass, whereby plain clothes officers on bikes monitor overtaking drivers, with anyone found to be carrying out dangerous manoeuvres facing education or enforcement.

Along with the praise, Tranter said he had raised the "concerning" prosecution figures and suggested an increase in resources would help.

"These recent figures are concerning and point to a lack of available resource to process reports from members of the public," he said. "It is clear that third-party submissions are rising...I know there have been some concerns from the force about the feasibility of staffing this as it continues to upscale.

"However, third-party submissions have huge potential as a cost-effective deterrent against poor driving, especially given the fact that traffic officers cannot be everywhere.

"At present the team looking at submissions has one senior post and two business support assistants, he said. More support would improve the level of feedback, improve the quality of submitted videos and raise confidence in the system."

Operation Close Pass was run 22 times in 15 different locations between August 2020 and December 2022, resulting in 211 close passing or dangerous drivers being stopped, with 145 being offered education and advice related to safe driving around cyclists, while 66 were processed.

Near Miss of the Day 842

Of the third-party reported footage, of which 5,551 submissions were made to West Midlands Police in 2022, only 872 – or just under 16 per cent – of those reports resulted in a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) being issued to the driver in question, 593 and 338 fewer than in 2021 and 2020 respectively, when fewer reports were submitted.

In newly reported data, 301 submissions in January of this year resulted in five drivers being prosecuted for careless driving or using a mobile phone, while 41 were offered education courses and two received fixed penalty notices (both mobile phone offences).

The now-under-review third-party reporting process comes amid a backdrop of wider road safety concerns for vulnerable road users in the West Midlands, with two cyclists killed by hit-and-run drivers in Birmingham since mid-May. 

On Friday, Tranter wrote a letter to police and local authority colleagues, calling for an urgent meeting with colleagues to bring about accelerated action to protect vulnerable road users.

On Thursday, a 36-year-old man was arrested over the death of a cyclist in his 40s on Chester Road, in Erdington on Wednesday afternoon, an incident which came two weeks after another cyclist was killed in a hit-and-run collision on Belgrave Middleway near the city centre.

In the hours after publishing a copy of his letter on social media, Tranter said he was "devastated" to hear that another cyclist had been rushed to hospital with serious injuries sustained in a collision involving a car being driven at the junction of Aston Lane and Birchfield Road on Friday afternoon.

"We cannot accept this as normal," Tranter said. 

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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11 comments

Avatar
AlsoSomniloquism | 11 months ago
1 like

I wish press would start pushing back on the Op Close Pass initiative response from WMP. That was in 2017 when Mark and Steve launched it. They used to publicise their ops on twitter and I used to regularly see Mark cycling routes near me in the getup as well as other safety initiatives against bad parking, speeding etc. But WMP Management, even though still riding on the "We launched Op Closs Pass",  strangled the main initiative down to the bare minimum until we get the figures published today. 

I used to submit alot in the days when it was launched, however lack of feedback meant I initially tailed off to "really bad" (missed by inches, left hooks, RLJ 10 seconds later) and now don't even bother submitting those. The other day a car went through temp traffic lights on red next to school (and a blind hill) a good 10 seconds after they had started to change and after overtaking 6 other cars and myself who had stopped. Should be bang to rights if submitted but I couldn't be bothered anymore because I have no idea if WMP would even process it. It apparently takes them SIXTY MINUTES to process a 2 minute video, open the computer and type in a registration plate and hit print. But they can't email the submitter in that time frame to at least let them know the video is viable to be used.

Avatar
Fursty Ferret | 11 months ago
1 like

Honestly, this is the sort of thing that should be farmed out to the dodgier companies like G4S. Give them 30% of the fine recovered and a bonus for reaching targets.

I genuinely don't care if they use shady or aggressive tactics in this area. If a pass is marginal as to whether it's dangerous or not, either pay up or request that the case be bounced back to the police with an acceptance that fines and points are doubled if found guity.

Always wondered why basic stuff like illegal number plates / pavement parking / window tints etc hasn't been given to third parties to enforce.

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IanMSpencer | 11 months ago
1 like

There is a nasty side effect to video reporting: verbal complaints of a serious nature without supporting video evidence are simply completely dismissed.

Pre-technology, a complaint about unlawful behaviour would result in plod visiting complainant and other parties and coming to conclusions. These days, the victim doesn't even have the satisfaction of the other party having to explain themselves.

We see that by the courts are prepared to weigh the believability of evidence in he said/she said case, even without video evidence. So why should investment in cameras and usage of video portals be the only method of cyclists getting any sort of pressure to change behaviour of a relatively small number of miscreants on the road?

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Hirsute replied to IanMSpencer | 11 months ago
0 likes

I don't think cyclists are going to get an exemption based on their ability to categorise an incident as an offence.
Car drivers are poor at this* and confuse being inconvenienced with an offence, so it will be necessary to have supporting evidence.

* And if you watch dash cam stuff you know too many make the hazard worse !

Avatar
qwerty360 | 11 months ago
4 likes

I expect we need:

1. Standardised reporting systems (easy for me as a cyclist to submit)

2. Standardised metrics

3. Comparison across forces and time

 

 

WMP were afaik one of the first forces to do a dashcam portal, as well as close pass initiatives etc. Loads of other forces are now doing the same because it had a measurable impact on road safety.

 

Yet for some insane reason WMP allowed it to stop when the officers behind it left (read: Were actively recruited by other forces for more senior, better paid roles due to how successful they had been...)

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open_roads replied to qwerty360 | 11 months ago
0 likes

qwerty360 wrote:

I expect we need:

1. Standardised reporting systems (easy for me as a cyclist to submit)

2. Standardised metrics

3. Comparison across forces and time

I would add some system enablers to increase capacity to detect and process these offences more efficiently:

4. Proportion of fines ringfenced at local force level to be reinvested in road safety programmes / enforcement

5. Outsourcing and automation of video submissions and analysis so that the police only view the recommended action and decide on it

6. Introduction of new FPN resulting in £300 fine and 3 points for first close pass offence and doubling of points + fine for each subsequent offence

 

 

Avatar
Fignon's ghost | 11 months ago
3 likes

This is shocking. A lucrative and relatively new way to raise funds toward road safety. It's nothing short of an own goal by WMP.

Particularly with the numbers of uninsured and untaxed vehicles also being found out.
I wouldn't cycle round WM if my life depended on it.
Cycle cameras are everywhere nowadays and they are only getting more advanced / accessible / compatible.
C'mon plod. Embrace the changes.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Fignon's ghost | 11 months ago
4 likes

Fignon's ghost wrote:

This is a lucrative and relatively new way to raise funds toward road safety. It's nothing short of an own goal. Particularly with the numbers of uninsured and untaxed vehicles also being found out. I wouldn't cycle round WM if my life depended on it. Cycle cameras are everywhere nowadays and they are only getting more advanced. C'mon plod. Embrace the changes.

I think they should prioritise public submitted video like this as clearly the people involved are wanting to help and are spending their own time and money to assist the police with traffic enforcement. If the police aren't taking it seriously, then the public will lose interest and the police lose an incredibly cheap and effective resource. It's free eyes on the road when the police can't be everywhere.

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Fignon's ghost replied to hawkinspeter | 11 months ago
5 likes

A great point. We're doing the admin and evidence gathering on plods behalf. For no wages.
FOR A SAFER COUNTRY. FFS!

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Fignon's ghost | 11 months ago
1 like

Fignon's ghost wrote:

A great point. We're doing the admin and evidence gathering on plods behalf. For no wages. FOR A SAFER COUNTRY.

Yeah, it's an implied contract whereby we provide cast-iron video evidence and the police prosecute them.

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Car Delenda Est replied to Fignon's ghost | 11 months ago
4 likes

The revenue from fines go to the treasury and aren't ring fenced for anything.
That said there is certainly a strong argument that the less you spend on policing now the more you'll have to spend on policing later.

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