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Paper 25th May 2004 - LGRAS(04)3

LGRAS (04) 3 - POSSIBLE LINKAGE OF ROAD ACCIDENT STATISTICS DATA WITH - STATISTICS OF ANY SUBSEQUENT CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

Introduction

1. This paper seeks advice on the feasibility of linking road accident statistics data with statistics on any subsequent criminal proceedings.

Background

2. There is interest in identifying, in the statistics of criminal proceedings, charges arising from road accidents in which one or more people were killed. For example, a paper (J1/03/8/8) by the Clerk of the Scottish Parliament's Justice 1 Committee noted a number of ongoing issues from the first Parliamentary session. Among these were Public Petitions PE29, PE55, PE299, PE331 and PE111 which all related to road traffic offences associated with accidents involving a fatality or serious injury. The Committee agreed that, among other things, it would like to be kept informed of any developments leading to improved data collection on this topic.

3. The campaign group Scotland's Campaign against Irresponsible Drivers (SCID) in particular has a long-standing and active interest in information relating to how the criminal justice system deals with motoring offences which have resulted from road traffic accidents which involve fatalities or injuries. They have, in considering how this type of information might be derived, suggested introducing new offence aggravators or modifiers codes in the Integration of Scottish Criminal Justice Information Systems (ISCJIS) data standards to identify, within the criminal justice statistics, dangerous and careless driving offences arising from road crashes which involve fatalities or serious injury.

4. SCID's proposals were discussed at a meeting of the SCOTSTAT Crime & Justice Committee on 2 June 2003. The Committee took the view that there were likely to be practical difficulties with using offence aggravator codes as a mechanism for linking information on road accident injuries to any resulting criminal charges. Instead it suggested that a better long term improvement would be for crime reference number to be included as a data item in the relevant road accident statistical records. This would then enable data matching of road accident and court disposal records. The Committee proposed that this idea be explored further with those responsible for the provision and collection of road accident statistics.

5. Within the criminal justice statistics currently compiled by SEJD, the only cases where it is possible to identify charges associated with road fatalities or injuries are the relatively small number where this is self-evident, ie where the charge involved is either causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs. There are currently no specific offences of causing death/serious injury by careless driving, and hence no underlying operational reasons for the Crown Office or others to include additional information on fatalities/serious injuries associated with careless driving charges in criminal history and case tracking systems. While changes have been made to the Crown Office computer system to enable all fatal road traffic cases to be identified - separate offence codes to allow offences of careless driving which arose from a fatal road accident were introduced in March 2003 - at present there is no straightforward technical solution to keeping track of careless driving prosecutions following accidents in which there has been a serious injury.

6. The injury road accident statistics currently collected from the police by the Scottish Executive do not include any information on whether a charge such as dangerous driving or careless driving results. The police generally provide data for each accident within a few weeks of it occurring, and there is therefore no current provision in the statistical system for collecting information about charges that may be brought, or convictions that result, often many months later.

7. The "Stats 19" road accident statistics specification was recently the subject of a wide-ranging Quality Review, as a result of which several changes will be made with effect from January 2005. Traditionally, such reviews, and the resulting changes, have taken place every five or so years. It is therefore unlikely that further changes can be made to the "Stats 19" specification, which applies across the whole of Great Britain, until about 2010.

Possible way forward

8. Given that adapting either of the existing statistical data collection processes - for criminal justice or road traffic accidents - in isolation is problematic for the reasons described above, an alternative approach is put forward here for consideration.

9. Such an approach would involve an annual request to each police force (say in March for data covering the previous calendar year) for a list of all police crime reference numbers included in any Standard Prosecution Reports submitted by the police to the Procurator Fiscal following a road traffic accident in which one or more people were injured, and for the corresponding "Stats 19" road accident references and some other details. These "lookup" files would then provide a mechanism for linking the statistical records on road traffic accidents with information on the outcome of any subsequent criminal proceedings without the need for amending either of the existing data collection processes.

10. An example of the layout of such a file is.

Line number

Standard Prosecution Report details

Stats 19 injury road accident details

Police crime reference number (13 alphanumeric characters)

Year in which accident occurred (2 digits)

Month in which accident occurred (2 digits)

Code for police force

"Stats 19" accident reference (7 alphanumeric characters)

1

PNCN363970002

99

05

91

NE02146

2

PNCP114610002

00

11

91

NH00138

3

PNCN453680001

03

04

91

NL00708

4

PNCN058500002

03

04

91

NL00708

5

PNCJ044660002

02

08

91

NN10492

etc

etc



NB: the references which appear above are for illustrative purposes only

11. Please note that:

  • the data would relate to Standard Prosecution Reports which were submitted in the previous calendar year. Some of these would arise from road accidents which had occurred in earlier years. Therefore, the file must include (the last two digits of) the year in which the accident occurred. The month in which the accident occurred and the Police Force code are also required, as well as the "Stats 19" 7-character accident reference, in order to form the Scottish Executive database's 13-character reference for the accident;
  • there would be no need to identify which of the "Stats 19" vehicle records and casualty records relate to the people who were charged following the accidents;
  • should more than one Standard Prosecution Report be submitted following a particular accident (e.g. if one driver is charged with speeding, and another driver is charged with dangerous driving), there should be one line in the file for each report, giving its police crime reference number and the reference details of the accident - as in lines 3 and 4 of the example file;
  • there would be no need to include in the file details of any Standard Prosecution Reports that arose following "non-injury"/"damage only" accidents, or for any other reasons (e.g. cases where no accident occurred) - because they would not have any "Stats 19" details associated with them;
  • there would be no need for the file to include details of any accidents (whether occurring in the previous calendar year or in any other year) which did not lead to any report to the Procurator Fiscal in the previous calendar year.

12. The file would be used to obtain information from the SE Road Accident Statistics database (such as the numbers of people who were killed, seriously injured, and slightly injured) and add it to the SE Court Proceedings statistical database. This would allow analysis of (e.g.) the numbers of convictions following serious injury accidents, comparison of sentences for charges following serious injury accidents and charges which arose in other circumstances, and so on. In the longer-term, it might also be used to add information to the Road Accident Statistics database, such as a code to indicate whether a prosecution report was submitted following the accident and, if so, the outcome of the prosecution (e.g. a code for any sentence that was passed). That would allow analysis of (e.g.) the proportion of injury road accidents of various types for which someone was subsequently sentenced.

13. The Group's views on this proposal are invited. In particular, it would be helpful to have comments on :

a) any practical or definitional difficulties with such an approach;

b) whether there any data confidentiality and privacy concerns that would need to be addressed; and

c) subject to comments on a) and b), the feasibility of providing such lookup file(s) for 2003 and previous years.

Scottish Executive Justice Department

Justice Statistics Unit

May 2004