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ASA climb-down over support of Scottish “Safety” Camera Partnership deceit on camera benefit

The SSCP has been misrepresenting speed camera benefit, helped by dodgy statistics from the Scottish Government. This has been presumably for the direct benefit of those involved, in order to cover up previous deceit / incompetence and to prolong jobs and empires, and to conjure up some justification for throwing £1.3 million down the drain renewing speed cameras.

When challenged, the Chief Statistician of Scotland, Roger Halliday, said that the statistics “have been assessed as high quality by the UK Statistics Authority” but it turned out that the UKSA hadn’t even seen them! But rather than do the right thing and withdraw the statistics, he tried to get retrospective approval, and the UKSA responded as they should have, with a damning report:

http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/assessment/assessment-reports/assessment-report-256---statistics-on-the-scottish-safety-camera-programme.pdf

Meanwhile, a complaint was raised against the SSCP with the Advertising Standards Agency, about blatant misleading marketing that can still be seen on the SSCP website:

“CAMERAS SAVE LIVES: View our recent research to find out why: The main findings are: The number of people killed and seriously injured at safety camera sites each year is around 68% lower following a period of camera enforcement than in the period prior to safety camera enforcement.”

http://www.scottishsafetycameras.com

(for those who are not familiar with why this is misleading nonsense, reductions are seen everywhere and are vastly exaggerated at camera sites by regression to mean). But you don’t have to be Einstein to work it out. Now without government funding, without some kind of statement of benefit (and as there is no speed camera benefit, it has to be fabricated), speed cameras would be at risk – partnerships might not get tens of thousands of normal safe drivers a year onto rip-off courses, no one else would fund them and the jobs of the partnership personnel who come up with this nonsense would be at risk.    

But the ASA, who had previously been supportive with similar complaints against the Kent and Medway “Safety” Partnership, and Vysionics, did not seem to want to take Scotland on. They produced an appalling adjudication, biased, ignoring inconvenient evidence (including the proven dodgy statistics) and with fundamental errors, and did not uphold the complaint. Just read the quote above again. Their “consideration” (when they should not have “considered” as they had been presented with plenty of firm evidence to the contrary) was that this would be interpreted by an average reader as being a purely (incomplete) mathematical statement NOT suggesting camera benefit!!

I requested an independent review. In the communications, the ASA reviewer, Sir Hayden Phillips, came across as refreshingly honest and diligent and agreed not only that the adjudication appeared to be “substantially flawed” but also that it was within the remit of the ASA.

But absurdly, it appears he has little power over the ASA Council. It seems to be up to them to decide what, if any, changes are made. The right result would have been a new adjudication, recognising that the marketing statements were badly misleading and dangerous and should not be allowed. But the fallout of this, for both the ASA and the SSCP would be unthinkable.

Clearly they had to do something, and fortunately for them, there was an easy escape: where they had previously decided the ad was within remit, and the reviewer had agreed, all they had to do was change their minds about this – they simply said that the ad now, when it had been before, was no longer within remit. All that meant was that the previous adjudication was void and they would not have to revisit it. Their only attempt at a justification was:

“The website did not meet the requirements of section 1h) of the Code in that it was not an advertisement, on a website, that was directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods or services”. I’m sorry but quite simply, yes it was. If the true effectiveness of speed cameras was properly represented, rather than the dishonest nonsense will can still see on the SSCP and most of the other Scottish camera websites, the supply of these goods (speed cameras) and services (speed camera enforcements) would have been very likely to have been stopped a long time ago. Why was it within remit while the adjudication was in favour of SSCP, and not within remit when it would not would have been?

Further, they indicated that the report from the independent reviewer had helped them to make this decision – in complete conflict with what he told me. Naturally, the report sent by the reviewer to the ASA is "confidential".

Here we see yet more evidence of the appalling speed industry at work, prolonging its own existence by any means possible, even if that means apparently corrupting public regulators and making the roads more dangerous (although this is nothing compared to another case which I expect to be able to report on shortly).

Scottish ministers, including Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have been informed but have taken no interest whatsoever and these senior public “servants” continue to protect themselves, not the public. Any behaviour like this in any kind of private business would cause it to go bust in days and quite possibly result in those responsible (and maybe the wider group of individuals and organisations who have been informed but chose to ignore / cover-up / protect) facing various allegations including perverting the course of justice, obtaining money by false pretences and breach of duty of care.

However, at least, the fact that the ASA have had to remove their flawed and biased adjudication in favour of the Scottish “Safety” Camera Partnership is another step forward in the fight against the speed industry and therefore for road safety.