Professor Sally Kyd & Dr Steven Cammiss, University of Leicester

Sally Kyd is a professor of Law at the University of Leicester. Sally's main specialism is in road traffic offences, having become interested in them through her PhD on vehicular homicide, after which her interest broadened and she published a book entitled Driving Offences: Law, Policy and Practice in 2008.

In 2011-12, she held an AHRC Early Career Fellowship funding a project to examine how the (then) new causing death by driving offences created by the Road Safety Act 2006 have been operating in practice, with further funding from the Society of Legal Scholars.

Her current project (and the subject of this presentation), explores the enforcement of endangerment offences such as careless and dangerous driving and seeks to identify best practice in roads policing.

Steven-Cammiss-profileSteven Cammiss is senior lecturer in Law at the University of Leicester. Steven's research interests are in the field of criminal law and justice. He has conducted empirical research with the CPS, Police, Local Government, and within magistrates’ courts. He is also a member of Leicestershire’s OPCC’s Ethics, Integrity and Complaint Committee.

Presentation: Promoting safety for vulnerable road users: assessing the investigation and enforcement of endangerment offences

Road safety policy generally relies on the three Es for its implementation: ‘Engineering’, ‘Education’ and law ‘Enforcement’.

A number of criminal offences exist to promote road safety and to reduce the incidence of road traffic collisions. Little empirical research has been conducted into how such offences are enforced in practice, and a number of questions arise regarding the use of police and prosecutorial discretion.

With funding from the Road Safety Trust, researchers from the University of Leicester have embarked upon a project seeking to rectify this, involving access to data on recorded offences and interviews with police officers and lawyers.

This paper will present preliminary findings from the research, providing data on how endangerment offences are utilised in practice. The focus is on offences of careless and dangerous driving, which anecdotal evidence suggests are rarely prosecuted in the absence of a collision resulting in injury or damage to property, despite such harms not being a required element of the offence.

Historically, one explanation for the lack of prosecution in such cases may be the evidential difficulties of proving that an offence has been committed in the absence of an ‘accident’, or where the driving has not been witnessed by the police. The latter type of case, where a police pursuit has given rise to risky driving which can be evidenced by officer testimony and in-car video evidence, appears to account for the highest proportion of successful prosecutions.

However, the availability of technological advancements may now assist in providing the evidence required from other sources; camera footage can be submitted to local police forces by members of the public as evidence of offending behaviour.

It is suspected that there are large variations in the way in which the police and CPS utilise their discretion to decide whether to charge suspects in such cases - in addition to there being variations in the enforcement practices of the police more generally in relation to roads policing. The data from the police will be supplemented by exploring, in focus groups, the experience of vulnerable road users (cyclists) subjected to the risk of harm as a result of such offending.