Filed under: General
On 19 December 2023, we held a webinar with Sergeant Jordan Keen, who leads the Allegations of Driving Standards team within the Traffic Investigation Unit at West Midlands Police.
This is our write-up of the webinar, which has been edited to make it easier to read.
This is also known as Operation Snap, a national operation where members of the public can submit dashcam footage, mobile phone footage and photographs of poor driving standards for police review.
There are four officers, as well as Sergeant Keen, in the team. The team was put together properly in August 2023. Prior to this, Nextbase was being operated by the Traffic Collision Investigation Team that investigates all road traffic collisions that aren’t fatal (which go to another team). It wasn’t very well staffed so wasn’t effective.
The new Chief Constable, Craig Guildford, has better resourced the team and out of the 6,700 submissions since January 2023, 3,000 were reviewed since the new team were put together.
West Midlands Police accesses Nextbase through a portal and can review submissions for the force’s area. The team has been working with Nextbase to improve the reporting form.
The biggest problem with Nextbase is people submitting reports to the wrong Police Force as submissions cannot be transferred. It’s important that you choose West Midlands Police on the map, or a neighbouring Police Force if it’s just outside of the West Midlands area, for example West Mercia or Warwickshire.
The information that comes through to the Police is the form you submitted, the videos or photos you attach, and your witness statement. Your witness statement is automatically generated in the background which makes your submission usable in Court.
The first part of your witness statement is your description of what happened. What you say in this is really important as it could place the allegations into a higher category when judges decide a sentence of fines and points on driving licences.
You should include this type of information in your description of what happened:
This information needs to be in the description because even though you can see this in the video, it cannot be used in Court if it’s not written down. If the suspect fails to attend court, the written witness statement can be read to Magistrates Judges and possibly convict the suspect in their absence.
The second part of your witness statement is your personal information, which is kept confidential.
It is important to attach video footage or photographic evidence as it needs to match with the statement. This means if someone appeals a penalty or goes to court and denies an offence, the video or photos can be used to play and show as evidence.
After you submit your report, it appears in seconds on Nextbase and is reviewed in date order by the Police.
Any Notices of Intended Prosecution (NIP) need to be sent within 14 days of the offence, which is 11 days if you allow three days for postage. You need to make reports as early as you can to give the Police the time to review and take action within the 14-day window.
Since August, the Police can issue the driver a warning letter, educate them, issue them a fixed penalty notice, take them to court or take no further action.
The Police tend to use the warning letter where they don’t feel they have enough evidence to convict in a courtroom. They might also send a warning letter if 14 days have passed since the offence happened which means the Police cannot issue a Notice of Intended Prosecution.
A warning letter makes the driver aware that footage has been submitted to the Police, the Police are aware that the driver’s driving standards were not up to scratch on that particular day, and what the driver did wrong. This is still a positive outcome even though they are not going to court or receiving points or a fine.
To take other types of action, the Police need to identify who the driver is first by sending the registered keeper a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP). The keeper then needs to tell the Police who the driver was. Once the Police know this information, they can decide what prosecution outcome they will look for.
If the registered keeper does not reply to the Police, the Police look to prosecute under Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act, which means the registered keeper has got 28 days to tell us who the driver is and if they don’t provide a name and address then we’ll prosecute them, often for a minimum of 6 points on their licence and a £600 fine.
The Police tends to use education quite a lot on close pass reports. A close pass is where a driver passes a cyclist under 1.5m. The Police take into account any aggravating factors, for example the type of overtake, the driver’s speed, how close they are to the cyclist and whether it’s approaching a junction or the brow of a hill.
If someone is using their mobile phone when stationary then the Police also offer education.
The majority of FPNs are for three points and £100. Unless someone is using a mobile phone while moving, which is for six points and up to a £300 fine.
If there are aggravating factors then the Police might consider taking the driver to Court.
All submissions are logged on a spreadsheet, along with which officer reviewed the submission and what the outcome was. The Police publishes submissions and outcomes on the West Midlands Police website, as well as video footage that has been sent in.
Since August 2023, every submission should receive a feedback email from the Officer who reviewed it to say what action was taken.
If you have not received this, you should get in touch with Sergeant Jordan Keen (email@example.com) to let him know, who will investigate why this has not happened.
We will review a submission and all the evidence at hand, and we also have to take into account public interest and proportionality. We have a small team. If we get inundated with unnecessary obstructions, I’m concerned it takes away some of the focus from close passes on cyclists, cars driving at pedestrians, some dangerous stuff we’re seeing where members of the public push prams across crossings and cars going through on red lights.
I’m trying to find the right balance and sometimes it’s a fine line between being able to take positive action at every opportunity.
On things like yellow lines and bus lanes, Birmingham City Council took enforcement powers from the Police and so it’s local authorities prosecuting rather than the Police.
We also consider that currently the fixed penalty for unnecessary obstruction is a £30 fixed penalty notice. That’s the highest we can prosecute for.
We will take aggravating factors into account – how much the pavement is blocked, if it’s on a bend, if it’s blocking the view of oncoming motorists, if it will cause a danger to other road users, are they on zig-zag markings, are they outside schools. If we can push the offence to dangerous, we will prosecute dangerous parking because the penalty is three points and a £100 fine. These are the ones we will focus on.
That’s not to say that we won’t do anything. We review anything sent to us. But obstructive parkers might get a warning letter rather than points or a fine.
Sometimes there are neighbourhood disputes where neighbours don’t get along and deliberately park causing obstruction just to be awkward. And for this, we need to work with the local Neighbourhood Policing Teams to see if there could be some restorative justice with a conversation between parties to resolve things.
You can find my (Sergeant Jordan Keen) details on the West Midlands Police website.
You can also call 101 and ask for me and they will put you straight through to me.
For the Police to make a prosecution on speed, we have to scientifically record it using calibrated cameras approved by the Home Office. Some members of the public have been trying to use apps on mobile phones but we cannot use it unless it’s Home Office approved. A Police Officer needs to be the person capturing the speed or someone who’s in an approved trainer book as the evidence needs to be usable in Court.
We can speak to the local neighbourhood team for speed watches. We can also ask the council for further road calming measures.
West Midlands Police are about to increase their capacity to process 1,000 speed camera activations per day across the West Midlands region. This is up from today’s 438 per day. There will also be further speed vans. I could ask the camera enforcement unit to visit this particular road every now and again.
Cllr David Barker: It’s hard to implement further measures and there might not be money to do this at all with the Council’s budget measures. We have very few measures at our disposal.
Yes, there are different types of courses depending on what the driver has done:
Education course money goes back into road safety, whereas the money from fixed penalty fines and speeding ticket fines goes straight to HM Treasury.
It’s a more personalised interaction with a personal and public touch. I have neurodiverse team members which means they can be a bit inconsistent.
The new Chief Constable wants us to be speaking to members of the community, hearing their feedback and sharing their stories.
We’ve invited a few people to come into the office to meet some of the teams – I’m happy to arrange this. It’s nice to put faces to names
I’ll take that on board, feed it back and see what we can come up with.
We try to explain on the education courses and leaflets we send out with warning letters. We have a leaflet about cyclists and 1.5 metres. We have other things we send out. We’re reviewing our leaflets and how far we can push our messaging, as well as how we can make website content better about the Highway Code and other various bits.
It’s all about having time and officers.
I want to keep engaging and working together and we’ll make things better long term.
Thankfully, wherever I’ve been I’ve always got on with my local councillors and highways teams. It’s not about one person doing everything, we’ve got to work together and do our little bits and come together. I think we’re onto something at this moment in time where we are starting to make a difference.
I know that local authorities will not put speed calming measures into place unless there is a significant number of injuries and road traffic collisions. Which is why those road traffic collisions aren’t reported and the injuries aren’t reported. If they’re not in the stats, they don’t know.
The Chief Constable is trying to push West Midlands Police back to local policing. He wants neighbourhoods to thrive and we’ve got some fantastic PCSOs that should be out on the streets and will know their areas better than anybody. They know their offenders. They know their parking.
If we (Allegations of Driving Standards team) can help out and support them, we will do so because we’ve got the facilities and the structure in place at the moment to do so. We’ve got to monitor the volume of reports to make sure there are enough staff to cope with demand. We’ve got to have the capacity but we’ll keep pushing.
It’s already being done. Every month, all the hotspots are being collated and we regularly speak to the local neighbourhood teams and I want to keep pushing on this. Our communication has to be better and it will get better.
We can’t use this scientifically as they’re not coloured (the box is yellow), calibrated or Home Office approved. Those signs are there as a prevention device to make motorists slow down – about 95% do slow down. You need a combined approach from all the agencies.
You can find the details for your neighbourhood team on the West Midlands Police website. You can let them know what’s happening and where.
I want to listen to all of your views because I have no idea how much of a difference it’s making in your local community by us doing what we’re doing. And we don’t know this unless you feed back to us.
Sometimes for people submitting 15 or 20 at one time, we don’t reply to each one. If you want an email every single time, I can do that but you’re going to get inundated with emails coming back from us.
Sometimes I want to start is putting registration numbers in the subject header of the email so you know which one it is.
Unfortunately, the Council took back enforcement of bus stops, bus lanes and yellow lines from us.
If you submit something to us, we’ll look at it and do whatever we can. 99 times out of 100, we’ll take positive action.
We can do, but I see how this is frustrating for members of the public and if we can deal with it, we will try our very best to deal with it. But imagine if every single parking issue across the West Midlands was sent to us on Nextbase, I don’t think we’d be able to cope with anything else, it would literally become a portal for poor parking.
We’ll deal with what we can but we obviously want to prioritise schools, city centres, areas and locations with high numbers of pedestrians as those are places where the serious risks are. If anything comes across as dangerous, we’ll deal with it.
If you come across someone completely blocking the pavement, causing an obstruction that you need to walk in the road to get around it? It’s not on. We shouldn’t be putting pedestrians in the road to get by or deal with it. If they’re parked half on, half off and there’s room to get by, we might have to look at it and say we’ll have to let that one go, but might use a warning letter. It just depends on what comes to us.
It’s odd that they can’t as we’ve recently used footage and a witness statement to get a 24-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, for drivers who did not stop at a pedestrian crossing in Yardley Wood for a mother crossing with a pram.
Cllr Izzy Knowles: If it’s only the odd offence, you might not get a response. If it’s happening every single day in a particular area, they will come out and try to do something. Parking enforcement doesn’t respond to reports.
I’ll let my team know this about the Council, as it’s important for them to know.
Cllr Izzy Knowles: And that’s the reason why so many people are putting parking stuff through to West Midlands Police. I’ve done that myself as I understand what’s a double yellow line problem and an obstructive parking problem.
Better Streets for Birmingham: This is because parking contraventions use different law for enforcement and offences need to be watched by a Civil Enforcement Officer (in Birmingham, this is contracted to NSL) or observed using an approved device.
It’s to do with spacings and letterings. It’s something that officers will deal with if they come across it themselves as ideally we issue a form instructing the driver to go and get the plate rectified within a certain number of days.
If it comes to us, I think it’s a £50 fine. But that doesn’t guarantee they’ll change the number plate. I want to push back to neighbourhood teams to spot them and have a conversation with the person that owns the car.
Better Streets for Birmingham: The rules are available online on GOV.UK. Raised characters are often misconceived to be illegal but are not.
The business has a duty to ensure that tis users and staff are not causing disruptions to the local neighbourhood or local members of the community. They have a direct responsibility themselves to take some sort of action. If they don’t take that action, then of course their licensing and licence can be looked at.
Speeding alone doesn’t constitute driving with reduced care and addition or dangerous driving. If we’re looking at speed, we’ve got to prove the speed, which is scientific and has to be via a calibrated speed gun or system over a set distance.
If we’ve got speed and some sort of other offence, we could make it a due care offence, but it depends on the evidence that we’ve got.
We’ve gone to court with speeding before and the defence is asking ‘what have they done other than looking like they’re travelling above the speed limit?’. If we can’t prove a speed limit or speed, we end up losing our case.
Having said that, if you’ve got footage of a car that’s absolutely caning it, and it’s clear and obvious, I might not be able to prosecute but I’ve got the option of sending a warning letter or at least having a conversation with the driver so send it in and we can review it.
Non-compliance with road signs, it’s a £50 fixed penalty notice. We get them sent to us and we issue tickets. So if you’ve captured it and it’s causing a problem, send it in and we’ll have a look.
Better Streets for Birmingham: Make sure you capture the signs in your footage. In your description of the incident, explain about the traffic restrictions, why they are in place, if the area is high footfall and impact of somebody driving through the modal filter.
I have four officers who have processed:
We have not hit a ceiling so we do not know how many submissions we can process.
The team’s final structure is waiting for Assistant Chief Constable sign-off. We think it will be one Sergeant and five Police Officers. If we’re getting hundreds and hundreds of submissions, then we have to look at how we resource it.
It’s important for us to understand the public context of how this is making an impact in the region. And solve problems that come up. It can only get better.
No, we don’t give out personal details or registration numbers. We very rarely end up calling people to Court but we can put special measures like screens in place so you cannot see one another. You’ll also get supported by the Victim and Witness Care service.
Sometimes people send long videos which include personal information like you reversing or leaving the driveway of your house. Avoid sending these sections of the footage in by editing the footage down to a short clip. We will edit video footage where we can but we don’t want to show your house number or anything.
The centre of your handlebars on the front. A rear view on the seatpost helps to give a central location for where the bike is.
Head cameras are fine but if you keep moving your head about, you move the angle of your camera.
If a close pass is really close, we’ll send them to Court. If it’s around 1.5 metres, we’ll look at education. If we’re not sure evidentially about whether or not we could prove it in court, we have the option of a warning letter as well, so we can still send that positive message out.
We do quite a bit with Adam Tranter. My door is open if anybody wants to come in and meet the team and see what it’s about on our side. It’s easy to arrange.
If anyone’s subjected to harassment or distress or they’ve been assaulted or threatened, if they feel they’re in immediate danger then it’s 999.
If they’re not in immediate danger, but any of thoe things have happened, it’s 101.
It should be reported and the member of the public given a crime reference number and it be passed on to an investigation team to be dealt with.
If we get anything that comes in like that, Officers are trying to phone or speak to the person that sent it in and ask them to contact 101 to report it. We might still look at the driving standards if we need to send a NIP because of the person’s behaviour. We’ll do that just so we’ve covered that base, but it needs to be recorded in the right way. If a crime is taking poliace, we have to record the crime.
Nextbase is generally for allegations of driving standards:
A road traffic collision is where two cars collide together and somebody’s injured. That has to be reported separately. If there’s any crimes or criminal damage, threats or behaviours – we need to report it in the right way because it needs a crime reference number and to be investigated.
Thank you for your support.