One in six speeding offences ‘cancelled’09 Feb 2022

Four hundred thousand offences written off in 2020-21

More than one in six speeding offences detected by police forces in England and Wales ends up being cancelled, RAC Foundation analysis of the latest government data suggests.

During 2020-21, a total of 2,426,950 cases of speeding were recorded by constabularies in the two countries and later reported to the Home Office. However, 404,335 (17%) of these were later cancelled.

In 2019-20, there were 330,623 cancellations, 13% of the 2,584,571 speeding offences detected in that year.

The reasons why offences go on to be cancelled is not recorded but could include:

  • Faulty or incorrectly calibrated speed cameras
  • Cloned vehicles carrying a false number plate
  • Emergency vehicles lawfully breaking the speed limit whilst driving with blue lights
  • A delay in issuing notices of intended prosecution
  • A lack of resources to bring cases to court

Problems could have been exacerbated by Covid.

Of the instances of speeding that didn’t get cancelled:

  • 977,587 (40% of the 2,426,950 total) were disposed of with a speed awareness course
  • 762,336 (31%) ended in a fixed penalty notice
  • 233,080 (10%) ended in court action

The highest proportions of speeding cases that ended up being cancelled were seen in Greater Manchester and Warwickshire, both at 39%.

Wiltshire had the lowest proportion of speeding offences cancelled at just 2%. Wiltshire also detected the lowest number of speeding drivers (912), probably because it has no fixed speed cameras.

The 2,426,950 speeding cases detected in 2020-21 – a period which included travel restrictions imposed to combat Covid – was down 6% on the previous year.

However, the annual fall in traffic volume was greater, down 26% across Great Britain (259 billion vehicle miles driven in 2020-21 compared with 352 billion vehicle miles in 2019-20).

The vast majority (96%) of speeding offences were detected by cameras.

There continues to be large disparities between forces in the number of speeding offences detected.

The top five forces for speeding offence detection in 2020-21 were:

  1. Metropolitan Police Service and City of London – 262,280 (up 22% compared with 2019-20)
  2. West Yorkshire – 180,432 (+2%)
  3. Greater Manchester – 178,123 (+13%)
  4. Lincolnshire – 123,533 (+90%) – however, news reports suggest at least 19,000 drivers were wrongly identified as committing an offence because of a camera error
  5. Thames Valley – 100,622 (-19%)

The constabulary-level variations in detection rates are likely to be for a variety of reasons, including: length of the road network, road type, traffic volume and makeup, local priorities dictated by police and crime commissioners, financial and human resources, and the availability of detection technology.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“It is correct that drivers caught speeding should face the consequences but it is also important that the systems of detection and prosecution are robust. The hundreds of thousands of ‘cancelled’ offences each year indicate they are not. At the very least it is an administrative burden the police could do without.

“We urge the Home Office to start collecting data from police forces about these cancelled offences so we can understand where the problem lies.”

Dr Adam Snow, a lecturer at the Law School of Liverpool John Moores University, who worked on the report, said:

“Police forces and local authorities are seeing number plate cloning as a growing problem. With the increasing reliance on camera enforcement for clean air zones and moving traffic violations there is some evidence to suggest more motorists are seeing this as an acceptable response even though it is fraud.”

ENDS

Contact:

Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

07711 776448 | [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at:www.racfoundation.org

According to the Home Office “North Wales, South Wales, Gwent, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire do not record all outcomes on the PentiP system.” This means some offences and their disposal will not be reflected in the official data.

The full report is available to download:

https://www.racfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/Speeding_offences_report_2020-2021_Final_Lam_Snow_Feb_2022.pdf

 

Police force

Number of speeding offences detected

2019-2020

Number of speeding offences detected

2020-2021

% year-on-year change in number of speeding offences detected

Number of speeding offences cancelled

2019-2020

Proportion of all speeding offences 2019-2020

Number of speeding offences cancelled

2020-2021

Proportion of all speeding offences 

2020-2021

% year-on-year change in number of speeding offences cancelled

Avon and Somerset

108,433

100,396

-7%

7,085

7%

12,020

12%

70%

Bedfordshire

72,784

51,862

-29%

15,561

21%

11,969

23%

-23%

Cambridgeshire

45,919

35,930

-22%

6,812

15%

6,737

19%

-1%

Cheshire

64,269

27,810

-57%

3,219

5%

2,332

8%

-28%

City of London / Metropolitan Police

214,409

262,280

22%

69,950

33%

77,399

30%

11%

Cleveland

14,682

6,628

-55%

730

5%

782

12%

7%

Cumbria

35,039

26,070

-26%

3,168

9%

2,073

8%

-35%

Derbyshire

13,124

19,789

51%

1,415

11%

3,777

19%

167%

Devon and Cornwall

63,306

77,086

22%

571

1%

3,693

5%

547%

Dorset

23,825

16,640

-30%

2,617

11%

2,250

14%

-14%

Durham

14,632

8,357

-43%

934

6%

290

3%

-69%

Essex

83,998

54,472

-35%

2,331

3%

3,347

6%

44%

Gloucestershire

31,582

25,268

-20%

1,719

5%

1,727

7%

0%

Greater Manchester

158,155

178,123

13%

45,424

29%

68,672

39%

51%

Hampshire

89,315

65,356

-27%

9,025

10%

6,944

11%

-23%

Hertfordshire

67,398

50,047

-26%

14,785

22%

10,029

20%

-32%

Humberside

45,786

48,174

5%

1,988

4%

4,543

9%

129%

Kent

22,082

31,684

43%

2,150

10%

3,978

13%

85%

Lancashire

71,303

55,154

-23%

6,115

9%

6,704

12%

10%

Leicestershire

49,604

31,084

-37%

8,193

17%

5,878

19%

-28%

Lincolnshire

65,033

123,533

90%

7,142

11%

20,695

17%

190%

Merseyside

70,057

66,498

-5%

8,542

12%

4,012

6%

-53%

Norfolk and Suffolk

93,322

95,181

2%

9,233

10%

14,455

15%

57%

North Wales

19,037

15,535

-18%

254

1%

290

2%

14%

North Yorkshire

85,016

73,658

-13%

1,887

2%

2,324

3%

23%

Northamptonshire

64,716

62,414

-4%

6,037

9%

8,954

14%

48%

Northumbria

66,585

57,753

-13%

5,519

8%

6,876

12%

25%

Nottinghamshire

21,791

21,207

-3%

307

1%

637

3%

107%

South Yorkshire

59,867

48,771

-19%

868

1%

3,571

7%

311%

Staffordshire

58,708

55,902

-5%

5,626

10%

6,970

12%

24%

Surrey

84,465

78,647

-7%

2,711

3%

2,269

3%

-16%

Sussex

65,954

54,028

-18%

9,086

14%

6,820

13%

-25%

Thames Valley

124,512

100,622

-19%

6,138

5%

5,954

6%

-3%

Wales (except North Wales)

41,036

35,389

-14%

1,384

3%

1,972

6%

42%

Warwickshire

45,560

34,132

-25%

10,343

23%

13,239

39%

28%

West Mercia

85,319

75,719

-11%

9,123

11%

10,069

13%

10%

West Midlands

66,353

74,407

12%

12,862

19%

18,238

25%

42%

West Yorkshire

177,013

180,432

2%

29,755

17%

41,829

23%

41%

Wiltshire

582

912

57%

14

2%

17

2%

21%

Total England and Wales

2,584,571

2,426,950

-6%

330,623

13%

404,335

17%

22%