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Communications with the information commissioner, negative effects of enforcements

 

This demonstrates quite well how Dorset Road Unsafe will try to wriggle out of questions that are a bit inconvenient. Basically, as long as it can say that it has "no records", it does not need to say more, regardless of whether or not it should have those records. It demonstrates also how desperate DRS are to hang on to their position that enforcements have no negative effects, even when a death that would not have happened without them, occured right in front of them, and it seems everyone else on the planet is perfectly aware of those negative effects.

 

Read the messages from the bottom to read in order.

 

 

 


Dear Mrs Hughes,
 
Ok, I now understand that you have done everything you can, thank you.
 
I have given Dorset Road Safe every opportunity I possibly can to tell me that cameras have no negative effects, and have not contributed to any deaths, and they have refused to do either, the only conclusion I can therefore draw is that they are in fact aware that there are negative effects, and that they have contributed to death, but are obviously being very devious in trying not to admit it for a number of reasons, including:
- They want to carry on making money
- They don't want to be held responsible for what they have done including contributing to a death
 
 
I will proceed on this basis.
 
 
Regards, Ian Belchamber
 
 
 

 

 

 

13 January 2012 


                      Case Ref: FS50400215

Dear Mr Belchamber,

The FOIA is concerned with the disclosure of recorded information not opinions. DRS  must respond to your request by searching for recorded information that answers that request. Your initial question asked:
  •  "in how many road deaths in Dorset the presence of a fixed or mobile speed camera may have been a contributory factor."

Your refined request asked:

  •  "I would like to know the number of deaths/serious injuries that have been investigated where the presence of a fixed or mobile speed camera was found to have been a contributory factor."

In the FOIA section1(1) provides a general right of access to information held by public authorities. There are two elements to this right. Firstly the public authority must inform an applicant whether it holds information of the description specified in the request and secondly to communicate the information to him if it is held.

In this case DRS has complied with both elements of section 1(1) and since the intervention of the ICO it has gone further to assist by providing an explanation of its procedures in respect of the second point of your request and attributed a numeric value as you later requested. DRS has answered that 1 investigation has taken place (as I explained in my letter of 10 January 2012) and the number of "road deaths" recorded as having the presence of a safety camera as a contributory factor is zero.

I understand that you consider that the coroner's report and press coverage of Mr Rowsell's fatal accident should have resulted in DRS stating that it holds 1 record of a death on the road with the presence of a safety camera being noted as a contributory factor. However if DRS does not hold the information that you believe it should hold, this is not a matter I am able to consider within the legislation.

Therefore, while I fully understand the concerns you have raised, and do not seek to discredit them in any way, I am sorry that I cannot investigate them. I hope that the references to the legislation will assist you in understanding the role of the ICO. I apologise if this was not made sufficiently clear to you in my previous correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

Susan Hughes
Case Officer


 


 

 

 

 

Dear Mrs Hughes,
 
I think you have misunderstood:
 
"In this case DRS does not consider that the safety camera was a contributory factor"
 
No, it has not said this. It says that it has "zero records". It has managed to avoid the question about the camera being a contributory factor.
 
If they believe that they have not contributed to any deaths, then I am happy for them to answer 0, TO THE QUESTION ABOUT NUMBERS OF DEATHS WITH CAMERAS AS A CONTRIBUTORY FACTOR, not about numbers of records.
 
It is easy to see why they are so keen to answer questions about numbers of records rather than number of deaths they have caused.
 
I refuse to accept that DRS do not have records about this, or even if they do not, that it is reasonable for them to ignore the readily available public records / evidence (as I provided).
 
I ask again for the question I asked, which DRS have the information to answer, is answered properly by DRS.
 
 
 
Ian Belchamber
 
 
 

 
 
 

Sent: Friday, January 13, 2012 2:28 PM
Subject: Your response to my email of 12 January 2012[Ref. FS50400215]

12 January 2012 


                     Case Ref: FS50400215


Dear Mr Belchamber,

Thank you for your email. I note the content and your opinion that it is 'ridiculous' that DRS has not recorded the fatal accident of Mr Rowsell as one in which a safety camera was a contributory factor.

The Information Commissioner's role is to regulate the application of the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act his role is not to determine the information a public authority holds. In this case DRS does not consider that the safety camera was a contributory factor in the accident to which you refer and therefore in applying a numerical value as you request, the value is consequently zero.

I do not consider that DRS have not answered the question you asked. The numerical answer it has provided is zero.

I understand that you do not consider zero to be a satisfactory answer for the reasons you have stated.

My investigation is now concluded. In considering the above my without prejudice view is that Dorset Police has provided the information it holds in respect of your FOI request and there is therefore no further action to be taken by DRS. I can formalise this view in a decision notice or as I have previously explained, the case can be informally closed.

Please confirm whether you wish me to draft a decision notice.

Yours sincerely,

Susan Hughes
Case Officer

 

 

 

 


 

Dear Susan,
 
This still does not answer the question.
 
If I contributed to a death, became aware of public evidence that proved I had contributed to a death, but chose not to hold a record of it, would it be reasonable for me when asked if I had contributed to a death, to reply simply that I had no record of it? Ridiculous.  
 
"Recording the verdict that Mr Rowsell’s death was due to a road accident, district coroner Sheriff Payne said: “I can only conclude that he has (braked) in response to the presence of the safety van. No other person or vehicle was involved.”"
 
How on earth can DRS, as a road safety organisation, choose not to hold full details of any road death, let alone one where they contributed to it, and then make use of "not having records" to dodge the question "Can you let me know in how many road deaths in Dorset the presence of a fixed or mobile speed camera was found to have been a contributory factor."
 
Choosing to reply that they have zero records is clearly totally unsatisfactory and only further evidence that they will go to any lengths to try to avoid answering this question, to the detriment of road safety. 
 
 
Regards, Ian Belchamber
 

 
 

Sent: Friday, January 13, 2012 9:54 AM
Subject: Your complaint against DRS[Ref. FS50400215]

13 January 2012  


                          Case Ref: FS50400215


Dear Mr Belchamber,

Further to your email of 11 January 2012 I requested that DRS considered again the second point of your request with a view to providing a numerical value in addition to the information already provided. As I have previously explained the FOIA provides access to recorded information.

I can now confirm that in response to your second point:

"Can you let me know in how many road deaths in Dorset the presence of a fixed or mobile speed camera may have been a contributory factor."

DRS has responded to the ICO that as previously stated one fatal crash was investigated and referred to the IPCC who found no case to investigate and it has zero records where evidence exists that a safety camera was a contributory factor in a fatal crash.

As the above answers the point you raised in response to my letter of 10 January 2012 can you please confirm whether you are now satisfied and I may therefore close this FOIA complaint?

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Susan Hughes
Case Officer

 

 


 
 

Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 9:28 AM
Subject: Re: Your complaint against DRS[Ref. FS50400215]

Please forward to Susan Hughes
 
 

Dear Mrs Hughes,

Many thanks for your detailed response, but I do not consider that this has been properly answered yet.

After the initial reply from DRS on the 10th May 2011, I clarified question 2, as it was clear that DRS would try to wriggle out of it on a technicality as I originally used the word “may”. The clarification was “I would like to know the number of deaths / serious injuries that have been investigated where the presence of a fixed or mobile speed camera was found to have been a contributory factor”. The only answer that satisfactorily answers this question is numeric.

I clarify also that the purpose of these enquiries is to flush out what seems to be dishonesty and / or incompetence at DRS which is obviously unacceptable for a safety organization and can only result in higher death counts than there should be.

DRS can answer this question, they are either aware of the coroner’s report on the A338 incident or they are not (obviously they are). I believe that the correct answer to this question is 1, unless DRS are aware of any other cases that I am not. If they want to provide the answer 0, or 1, or 99, anything, then I will be quite happy to accept it. This is not difficult and it is never awkward or inconvenient to answer a simple question if you are honest and competent.

There is a very good reason that DRS are attempting to avoid providing a numerical answer. If they provide an answer of 0, it will indicate a total point blank refusal to take responsibility for their actions for which I’m sure they know are dangerous and that this is supported by vast amounts of evidence.

If they provide a non-zero answer, it will show that they have indeed been dishonest about denying negative effects (and they have done so vigorously for some time including point 3).

Either way it will prove that they are deliberately continuing with activities they know to be dangerous (presumably to make money), and seriously negligent in carrying on with these activities without proper consideration of the risks, and therefore possibly partly responsible for the death of Timothy Rowsell. Most people are aware that a proper risk assessment is required for many apparently trivial activities, let alone interfering with traffic on busy roads.

This will be absolute proof that they are unfit to do safety work. If DRS were doing aircraft safety they would be dropping out of the sky every few minutes. This is why they don’t want to answer the question and why it is so important that they do.

Of course if I am wrong I’m sure that DRS will be very pleased to explain how and I will be very pleased to apologise.

Therefore, in the interest of saving life in Dorset (and possibly elsewhere) I require a numerical answer to question 2. 

Regards, Ian Belchamber
 
 
 
 


Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 2:32 PM
Subject: Your complaint against DRS[Ref. FS50400215]

 10 January 2012 
 
                      Case Ref: FS50400215
 
Dear Mr Belchamber,
 
 
Further to my letter of 6 December 2011 I have investigated your complaint as described in that letter and have set out my considerations and conclusions below.
 
Chronology
 
You requested the following information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”) on 12 April 2011:
 
  1. “Could you please confirm if you will be suspending mobile speed camera operations or not.
  2. Could you let me know in how many road deaths in Dorset the presence of a fixed or mobile speed camera may have been a contributory factor.
  3. Is Dorset Road Safe aware of any “negative effects” of speed cameras and if so could it please list these.
  4. Could you let me know what investigations will be taking place into this death and how I can contribute to those investigations.”
 
 
Dorset Road Safety (‘DRS’) responded on 10 May 2011 and provided answers to the first three questions posed. Regarding the fourth point DRS referred you to Dorset Police to separately request information on any investigations to be conducted.
 
On the same day you expressed dissatisfaction with the response in respect of questions 2 and 3 which DRS considered to be a request for an internal review.
 
The review provided on 10 June 2011 stated in respect of question 2 that Mr Stephens is not aware of any known road deaths that have been attributed to the presence of a safety camera in Dorset.  I assume that for DRS to provide information on whether a safety camera contributed to a death an investigation would need to have taken place which recorded such a finding.
 
With respect to the third question the review stated:
 
“Safety Cameras are type approved for use by the Home Office and I have no record or validated evidence presented to me of any negative effects of their use in road safety.  I will not ask operators for their opinions on “negative” effects of safety cameras as again that would be speculation on their part.  If you wish to challenge the use of safety cameras you may wish to contact the Home Office.”
 
Investigation
 
In bringing your complaint you primarily focus on the second point of your request and I have therefore concentrated my enquiries on this point.
 
As we discussed on the telephone on 2 December 2011, the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) provides access to recorded information held by public authorities. A public authority is not required to create information; it is obliged to inform an applicant whether it holds information which answers a request or questions posed as a FOIA request. If information is held in respect of a request the public authority has a duty under section 1 of the FOIA to inform the applicant in writing whether it holds information of the description specified in the request and if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him.
 
Your substantive complaint focuses on the internal review provided by Dorset Police and is stated as follows:
 
“Johnny Stephens refuses to answer one of my questions as asked, and refuses, despite substantial evidence backed by common sense, to consider the possibility that drivers brake for cameras and that this could be dangerous, or even to communicate with camera operators to quantify the extent of this obvious problem.”
 
I have therefore primarily considered your statement that DRS and Dorset Police refused to answer one of your questions (question 2.)
 
Taking the four questions which form your request in the order listed above:
 
1. “Could you please confirm if you will be suspending mobile speed camera operations or not.”
 
DRS answered this question stating that none of its operations had been suspended.
 
2. “Could you let me know in how many road deaths in Dorset the presence of a fixed or mobile speed camera may have been a contributory factor.”
 
In respect of this question DRS stated that there was “no qualified evidence” to answer this question. The internal review provided by Dorset Police stated that there was no knowledge of any “..known road deaths having been attributed to a safety camera’s presence.” I have investigated this point and will explain my findings below.
 
DRS explained that there are various levels of investigation carried out into road traffic collisions based on the severity or potential severity of the injuries. If it is a collision involving a fatal injury the ‘Road Death Unit’ of the Police investigate using a standard procedure which includes reviewing the scene and noting any person, vehicle or item (including safety camera) that may provide lines of inquiry to be followed in an attempt to find the causation factors. In some cases the cause is not apparent and may be an assumed factor rather than a proven factor.
 
If the investigating officer from the Road Death Unit sighted either a fixed or mobile safety camera that may have had a contributory factor in a collision the camera would form part of their investigation. The potential involvement of a safety camera in any collision (along with any other police owned item) would be reported to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (“the IPCC”) within 12 hours of the collision occurring.
 
If the presence of a safety camera was included in the subsequent investigations the Safety Camera Manager at DRS would be contacted to provide details of the operation of the camera (for example was the camera live, were operators present, did the camera activate) This investigation would result in written information which would form part of the investigation file and would therefore be recorded information held by DRS and the Police.
 
In providing its response to your second question the Safety Camera Manager searched for recorded information as determined above. The result of that search provided only one record which was that concerning the motorcyclist’s fatal accident on the A338 to which you specifically refer. In this case the presence of a mobile safety camera van located 600 yards from the accident was noted and reported to the IPCC.
 
In addition the Head of Department responsible for the Safety Camera Team who has been with the Dorset Safety Camera Partnership (renamed Dorset Road Safe partnership) since its formation in October 2002 confirmed that he did not hold any record of an investigation concerning safety cameras and fatal collision injuries in Dorset as described in the procedure outlined above.
 
I asked DRS to confirm, for the sake of clarity, whether any information held in any format could provide an answer to your question. The authority confirmed that, excluding the motorcyclist fatality previously mentioned, no documentation in any format was held relating to safety cameras and fatal collision injuries within Dorset nor was any record of investigations by the Road Death Unit or IPCC held. This includes the period of time from October 2002 until the date of your request.
 
3. “Is Dorset Road Safe aware of any “negative effects” of speed cameras and if so could it please list these.”
 
DRS answered this point stating that it holds no recorded information on any negative effects of the use of safety cameras in road safety.
 
I understand that you consider that information should be held on this point. However, a public authority is not obliged under the FOIA to create information to provide a response to an applicant if no recorded information is already held.
 
4. “Could you let me know what investigations will be taking place into this death and how I can contribute to those investigations.”
 
DRS advised you to make this request to Dorset Police as it is the appropriate respondent to this point.
 
Conclusion
 
My conclusion in this case is that DRS and Dorset Police responded appropriately to your request for information in accordance with the FOIA.
 
I acknowledge that you sought a definitive answer with respect to your second question and therefore may be disappointed with the response. However I have provided further explanatory information with respect to this question which I hope you will find useful.
 
As there is no further action to be taken by DRS in respect of this request and it responded in a timely manner as specified in the FOIA I would ask that we can informally resolve this complaint.

If you wish to discuss or clarify any of the above I shall be at my desk tomorrow, please call me on 01625 545545. If I do not hear from you by 20 January 2012 I shall assume you are prepared for me to close this case.
 
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Susan Hughes
Case Officer