Sky news: Richard Littlejohn
24th November 2003

Sky News

The Richard Littlejohn program did a piece on speed cameras on 24th November 2003. Here is the transscript.

Those present:

RL: Richard Littlejohn: Sky and Sun journalist. Presenter.
BL: Brian Ladd: Casualty Reduction Officer. Essex Police and SCP
LO: Lembit Opik: Lib Dem MP 


RL: Each speed camera costs £100,000 a year to run, they could get 3 police officers for that, so why don't we? I'm joined by Brian Ladd, a "Casualty reduction officer" and lib-dem MP Lembit Opik. Good evening to you both.

RL: Why does it cost £100k to run a speed camera?

BL: Well I think that's when you're looking at the overall costs of running the whole of the set-up, er and I think what we have to understand here is that that is erm based on a cost of business case which has been approved by the department for transport and the treasury in the first place, so we can't do anything that hasn't already been approved.

RL: It's a hell of a lot of money, I mean I'm looking at the figures and you're sitting on a gold mine here aren't you?

BL: We're sitting on no gold mine at all because we don't make any money out of this at all other than to cover the costs for
running the system. Erm, the popular myth is that we do but of course any surplus that exists goes straight to the treasury
as it always did do.

RL: But I'm looking down these, you've got £142M collected nationally... erm... in Essex the figure is what, £6.2M I think that you have collected from the DTi, the money you're giving, Essex police got £2.44M which went on administration, overtime and expenses. How do you rack up overtime and expenses with a speed camera?

BL: There is not overtime and expenses is not the main issue here, there are a lot of building costs which don't feature in
that particular report. But I think the most important thing..

RL: Not in here, this £2.44M that's admin, overtime and expenses

BL: No, that's the way it was broken down in the paper but those figures are not accurate, erm it didn't include building costs which I say which amounted to a large sum of money. The overtime is because we run it with police officers on overtime that wouldn't be on duty in any other way so we get what we pay for. So there's lots of issues there that need to be fully understood. But I think more importantly its about what they do and the reason that they're there. And the one thing that I think is the most important thing that I want to get across is that no-one has got any reason to fear any of these devices if they don't speed.

RL: What is a casualty reduction officer? These jobs didn't exist 5 or 6 years ago. The money is to be paid to keep people
like you in gainful employment isn't it?

BL: No, not at all. I was employed in traffic management which is still part of my main function within Essex police, er I
also oversee the camera enforcement so I see it from the whole wide perspective and I deal with the local authorities on all
sorts of issues in relation to casualties and we look at all sorts of measures and speed enforcement through cameras is only one of them.

RL: The problem is these are just fruit machines, you look at the figures for the amount of money that's being raised and
we're told you know casualty reduction, safety, the simple fact of the matter is while the graph for the number of people
convicted of speeding offences has gone through the roof, the graph which shows the number of people that have been killed on the roads has remained steady. In fact, since we have had the cameras it has gone up slightly.

BL: The graph of people killed is not the only factor that you need to look at. You need to look at the overall graph for
killed and seriously injured and all of the other injuries and that is actually slightly on the decrease. But I think much more importantly, what we don't want to see is us getting back to the position we were in back in the 80's when accidents were
sky high, and its measures that have been taken over a period of time, and cameras are one of those, that has started to
bring all of these things down.

RL: Durham police say that speed is a factor in only 3% of accidents in their area. Mike Todd, chief constable of greater
manchester was on this programme before and said there is far too much emphasis on this, and he admits it is a revenue
raising exercise which alienates the public.

BL: If I could just answer that, that is the popular myth, but when you look at it in detail and we have been looking at it
in some great detail very recently, when you look at all of those accidents that have been investigated by traffic investigation officers, where people have been killed and seriously injured, the figure for speed involvement in
that is nearer to 70% not 7%. Those are the real issues but..

RL: I am only quoting the figures that police forces are quoting... Lembit Opik, what do you make of this?

LO: Well I was listening to this, you're saying that this is a popular myth but it has been perpetrated by police officers themselves, now I believe police officers who tell me that they regard these as a revenue raising exercise, but fundamentally this is my concern, its all about the stick, there is no carrot for driving well and if this carries on the way it is there is going to be a speed camera every mile down all the roads. Now as far as I can see we are creating a police state where effectively we are saying we don't trust you to be a responsible driver, instead we are going to say we punish you for being a bad driver with no let up at all, no consideration that cars are safer now, they've got better stopping distances and so forth, and I'm very concerned that it is hard to justify some of these speed cameras when you look at the accident statistics.

RL: Sure, nobody wants to see boy racers tearing around outside schools or in 30 mph in residential areas. The big concern people have is when they are put on roads, 50 mph, 60 mph, where the speed limit has actually been lowered in order to raise the revenue in the first place. The myth that I'm sure Brian was talking about was that it saves lives, the 10 most dangerous roads in this country identified by a european road agency have only got 4 cameras between them.

LO: I think you're right about the concern about accident statistics, and injuries and deaths and we can have that conversation, but for me the reason, not as a liberal democrat, but as a politician who really does want us to start talking about where we are going with all of this, the reason I am so concerned is because my feeling is there is a huge revenue incentive to prosecute people who often are actually driving very responsibly, driving according to the conditions, and that doesn't mean 100 mph past a school at 3:30 in the afternoon.

RL: Its arbitrary isn't it

LO: That's the thing yeah, sometimes in fairness the police do give you that judgement, but a speed camera wont necessarily say this person was driving at 85 here but there was nothing else on the road. So the question I ask to
Brian is, how can you make sure these things don't actually punish people randomly, good drivers driving fast because they think the conditions are safe.

BL: I don't think that good drivers have got that option because you, in parliament, have made the laws in the first place, you've introduced speed limits which were put in for safety reasons and they are the absolute maximum that anyone should be doing at any one time, so a driver doesn't have that option beyond the speed limit so therefore that argument falls flat as
far as I am concerned.

LO: That answers your earlier point, you said if you've done nothing wrong then you've got nothing to fear and I'm sure many
people who do drive say at 77 mph on the motorway genuinely feel they haven't done anything wrong. Now I do also agree with you that parliament has been very restrictive about this and I spoke to a former minister who said the only reason he didn't increase speed limits to 85 was because he was afraid of a popular backlash.

RL: Alistair Darling, the transport secretary, says it has all gone too far but he's not doing anything about it. In Scotland, they are removing 165 of the 500 cameras,  can you see that happening south of the border?

LO: Well I would love to see it, unfortunately I think we have quite an authoritarian government at the moment, David Blunkett wants to control us not to free us, and in fairness in defence to you, you've got a job to do and I accept what you're trying to do is enforce speed limits which has been given by my trade, by government and by politicians for you to enforce. I'm saying lets take a step back, surely people will drive better if they know that they actually get rewarded for driving well,

RL: Brian we'll give you the last word, you've got 10 seconds...

BL: OK, well I mean we get much demand from all of the villages across Essex for more and more cameras and you believe the public is actually demanding it, now we certainly don't rise to that demand because they are only where
accidents occur.


Thanks to Dave for providing the transcript.

It's absolutely astonishing to note that Brian Ladd claimed that 70% of KSI accidents had "speed involvement". I guess we'll have to drop him a line and ask him to justify the statement. Watch this space.

One third of fatal accidents are now caused by speed cameras

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Created 25/11/2003. Last update 25/11/2003