For most crash victims, their contact with the criminal justice system ends with the charging decision.
Because prosecution is rare. A driver is more likely to die in a crash than be prosecuted for causing a death. In 2012, there were over 800 driver/rider deaths, but only 643 prosecutions for causing a death.
And it is even rarer after an injury crash. A driver is less likely to be prosecuted for causing an injury crash than a fatal crash. Injury collisions do not benefit from specialist collision investigators and the CPS will not prosecute unless there is a “realistic chance of conviction”.
At a time when active travel is being promoted, those walking and cycling need more protection by the justice system, not less. But as shown in our annual Causing Death by Driving briefings and our Daily Toll leaflets, undercharging is a real problem.
This section looks at who makes the charging decision and how. It highlights the problem with lack of transparency and the difficulty in holding government accountable. Police do not report the legal outcome of collision investigation, not even fatal crashes. It is not possible to know which result in a prosecution or who has made the charging decision.
It also reviews the rights of victims to be informed about the charging decision and to challenge it. As road crash victims do not have the same rights as other victims of crime, this is a problem area with many victims not kept informed of the investigation progress.
What RoadPeace is doing
Our first priority is helping inform the newly bereaved and injured. Our Guide to the Charging Decision, first published in 2010, encourages families to visit the crash site with the police. It includes a checklist of questions to ask.
RoadPeace also monitors the prosecution and sentencing statistics. Since the new causing death by driving charges were introduced, RoadPeace has produced annual Causing death by driving briefings. Since 2011, we have been highlighting how much more often the lesser charge of Causing Death by Careless Driving has been used than the CPS ever predicted and the drop in Causing Death by Dangerous Driving prosecutions.
The charging decision (no charge and downgrading) and lack of transparency have been priorities for RoadPeace from the start. They were both key points made in our 1995 testimony to the Transport Select Committee on Risk to Vulnerable Road Users and they have been repeated regularly to reviews and consultations ever since.
We were pleased that in 2012, TfL and the MPS adopted our (RoadPeace, CtC and LCC) recommendation to produce an annual review of the legal outcome of collision investigations. At a meeting of the Safe Streets for London Steering Group in May 2014, TfL confirmed that the legal outcome of all fatal and serious injury collisions would be reported.
Also in 2012, we responded to the CPS’ consultation on their Code for Prosecutors, calling on them to clarify if they thought an offence had been committed. At present they state if they think a conviction is likely.
We also responded to their new guidance on driving incidents. We organised a Traffic Justice panel discussion on You say Careless, I say Dangerous with the CPS, CtC, magistrates, police and academics as we believe this is the key issue for prosecution.
And at a meeting at the end of 2012 organised by British Cycling, the Victims Minister assured RoadPeace, British Cycling and CtC, that she was aware of the discrimination against road crash victims and would end it. The new Code of Practice for Victims of Crime was to include road crash victims. This did not happen. The vast majority of those injured in crashes are excluded from the Code. This includes those injured by drink drivers, speeding drivers, and those left for dead in hit and run crashes.
See RoadPeace's consultation responses to the CPS: