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/ Corporate Review Department
Information Management Section
PO Box 9
Tel: 01924 292486
Fax: 01924 292726
24th November 2010
Freedom of Information Appeal – Reference A0017/2010
Yourequested an Internal Review under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) on the 22nd November2010 as you felt that the information provided to you did not fully meet your request. West Yorkshire Police, in this instance, are acting as the Internal Reviewer on behalf of the West Yorkshire Safety Camera Partnership (WYSCP).
Nature of the Request and the Response
Having looked at your request, I’ve found that it did meet the requirements of the statutory timescale, namely that it was delivered to you within the 20 working day period.
However, your main issue is that the response you received did not answer the questions you asked. Having read the file and considered the reasons for exempting the information, I’m in agreement with the initial decision given to you,not only for the reasons provided in the letter dated 11th October 2010, but for other reasons which I will outline.
The Section 31 (Law Enforcement) exemption has been engaged as WYSCP do not want members of the public to second-guess the likelihood of being caught at any specific site; if it is revealed that, for example, that Site X has detected 1,000 speeding offences compared with Site B which may have only detected 100 offences in one year, the information may give rise to motorists taking a chance to speed at Site B as they believe the likelihood of the camera being operational must be low. The presence of a static speed camera serves as a deterrent for speeding; the aim is to compel motorists to comply with speed limits. The release of any kind of information that could undermine this purpose will, as I hope you understand cannot be released for this reason.
A further reason for not releasing this information under Section 31 of the Act relates to the possibility of criminal damage occurring should the number of detections be high. ‘Motorists Against Speed Cameras’ (MASC) and ‘Motorist Against Detection’ (MAD) are anti-speed camera groups who openly admit to vandalising cameras in the UK. In 2008, MAD claimed to have been responsible for more than 1,000 attacks on cameras across the UK since they were set up in 2000. As well as organised groups, there are individuals who target safety cameras, who may have been caught speeding or who just feel the cameras are there as money-making machines.
Further research shows that there continues to be criminal damage caused to speed cameras across the UK. Recent articles include the following:
In 2007, following a Freedom of Information request asking for the location of the top ten cameras, an article was published in the media which identified a site on the A303 as being the most prolific. Within several hours of the publication, a site was vandalised in Wiltshire causing damage of £42,060. Therefore, we do not wish these cameras to become vandalised as a result of inappropriate disclosure. Fixed camera sites are constantly reviewed, particularly where there is a need to regulate traffic flow. The release of information which contains the working practice of safety cameras would impact significantly of operational policing.
The Section 38 (Health & Safety) exemption is engaged as the purpose of safety cameras is to deter speeding and bring about a reduction in the number of deaths and injuries sustained through road traffic collisions at sites which have been identified as having a history of collisions and injuries.
The information you’ve requested in this instance could have an impact on operational policing. The following summarises the considerations that have been taken into account when exempting the information:
- To disclose to the public how many offences are detected at individual sites could seriously undermine the effectiveness of the camera and its purpose of achieving a greater level of road safety at the site. This information could reveal the likelihood of being caught and, if the information supplied indicated that the chance was low, may encourage higher speeds at the site leading to greater risk of collisions and injury.
- For speed enforcement by safety cameras to be truly effective, there must be a perception that the chances of being detected speeding at a site is high at all times. The cameras are first and foremost a deterrent for speeding.
- The information could divulge working practices that, if known, could have an impact on the health and safety of the general public
A survey conducted in June 2009 (not in West Yorkshire) where a camera housing was covered over for a four week period, showed that more vehicles were recorded exceeding the speed limit than were recorded prior to the camera housing being ‘bagged’. Prior to the bagging of the camera housing, there had been one slight personal injury collision during the previous five years. However, there was one killed or seriously injured collision which occurred in the four week period when the camera housing was visually inoperable.
A recent article: highlights that when Oxfordshire turned off their safety cameras due to budget cuts, there was a significant increase in speeding traffic on two roads where drivers were monitored.
I trust that for the reasons outlined above you can understand why I support the original decision not to support the disclose of the information you seek as I believe that it is not in the public interest to release detailed information about offences detected at individual camera sites – the very presence of the static speed camera connotes that speeding, collisions and injuries are a problem at the site and therefore the camera needs to be viewed as actively enforcing at all times.
If you are not satisfied with this response and wish to take this appeal further you will need to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office, quoting this Appeal Reference, the reason for your appeal and the fact that you’ve already been through the first stage of the Appeals process. The address of the Information Commissioner’s Office is as follows:
Information Commissioner's Office
Telephone: 01625 545 745
Fax: 01625 524 510
Head of Information Management