|Can the public be reassured that the quality of police investigation and CPS handling of such cases remains high?
This was the key question the Joint Inspectorate Review into road death investigation and prosecution was to answer.
Road death investigation reviews
The College of Policing's Investigating Road Deaths guidance states that "An appropriate review process should be developed and implemented". RoadPeace attended ACPO's first workshop on road death investigation reviews in January 2015.
The Joint inspectorate review searched the individual casefiles for evidence that the investigation was being quality assured at each key stage as well as at the end. Whilst all six police areas visited had quality assurance checks, these varied widely in practice. Nor had lessons always been identified.
Two examples of good practice were identified:
- In Lancashire, a dedicated review officer is trained in conducting reviews and tasked with reviewing every live investigation against a standard template document, which includes all aspects of the investigation, including file quality. Clear guidance has also been produced on the content and format of a fatal collision file.
- In Kent, police inspectors meet with the senior CPS area prosecutor and review the outcome of specific cases, including the effectiveness of the trial advocate.
Transparency and accountability
For justice to be done, it must be seen to be done.
Open justice is a stated priority for the coalition government and for understandable reasons. But transparency is lacking in three key areas:
Police do not report which crashes result in which charges. This is true of both fatal crashes and injury crashes. There is no monitoring of how often a driver is prosecuted for causing an injury to a child pedestrian or cyclist. This lack of concern about outcomes would be unimaginable for other reported crimes.
Nor are police required to report on how often or how they decide no further action (NFA). This includes cases where they have not consulted the CPS.
In the vast majority of injury collisions, the police investigate and make the charging decision. Thus acting as investigator, judge and jury. See Charging Decision for more information.
Investigation procedures are not transparent. Police do not clarify what they do at site or in follow-up investigation. ÊThis information is not available on line.
Bereaved families are given a booklet produced by Brake, the road safety charity, and funded by the Ministry of Justice. It contains little information on collision investigation, compared to the chapters dedicated to criminal prosecution and civil compensation.
Efforts will depend on resources but investigation budgets are not published. RoadPeace has requested this information from every police force but few were able to provide it.
It should be possible to see how much the police have allocated to collision investigation (fatal and injury) and how this compares with other police investigation.
London road death investigation budget vs homicide budget
- At approximately £60m, the MPS Homicide investigation budget is almost 8x that of the road death investigation budget of £7.7m.
- If the same amount was spent on investigating a road death as a homicide, the road death investigation budget would be more than £92m, some 12x larger than at present.
- There are 748 staff assigned to homicide investigation, compared to the 110 assigned to road death investigation unit, which also investigates life threatening collisions). Homicides have over 10 times the staff resources as do road death investigations (letter from Mark Rowley MPS Assistant Commissioner, Specialist Crime and Operations, to Jenny Jones, 2013)
Transparency is necessary for accountability but it does not guarantee it.
With road deaths, Senior Investigation Officers (SIOs) and leads for Road Death Investigation Units have been common practice for years. But as of January 2017, the College of Policing removed reference to SIOs in their Investigating Road Deaths guidance.
And injury investigation still suffers from a lack of leadership. In London, borough police were encouraged to assign the responsibility for injury collision investigation to an Inspector.