Plans for video portal to tackle driving offences in Northern Ireland

Proposals are being drafted that could see a system introduced so members of the public who have witnessed driving offences could submit video evidence to a public portal.

Operation Snap’, which allows video evidence of such offences to be submitted to a public access website and reviewed, is currently in place elsewhere in the UK.

The operation investigates offences including dangerous driving, careless driving, using a mobile phone, not wearing a seat belt, and other offences where the driver is clearly not in proper control of the vehicle.

It is one of a series of proposals currently being drafted by the Department for Infrastructure and the Department of Justice relating to road safety, including potentially making careless driving a fixed penalty notice offence, in a bid to alleviate pressure on the justice system.

These changes, however, will have to go out for public consultation and be subject to Assembly approval, so it is unlikely they will be in place until after the 2022 Stormont election.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “Work is underway on drafting proposals for a consultation that will consider making careless driving a fixed penalty notice offence. The consultation paper will also consider the potential for the introduction of Operation Snap in Northern Ireland.

“A timetable for legislation to make careless driving a fixed penalty offence can only be developed following the outcome of the public consultation process. If a decision is taken to proceed then a set of three Statutory Rules will be required; one of which will be subject to affirmative resolution procedure.

“I appreciate the potential impact a fixed penalty option for this offence could have in terms of freeing up capacity within the justice system and am committed to working with the Justice Minister and the PSNI to determine the best way forward as quickly as possible.”

Ulster Unionist Infrastructure spokesperson Roy Beggs welcomed the news.

“Operation Snap has been widely used for several years by other UK police services to efficiently gather evidence of careless driving. There are too many serious accidents on our roads as a result of careless driving,” he said.

“I welcome such a system being introduced by the PSNI to report careless driving. By developing a secure system that enables the public to submit careless driving evidence recorded on their dashcam or mobile phone, it should be possible to improve road safety for everyone. The sooner this is introduced, the better.

“It will be important to make use of penalty notices, so that many incidences of careless driving can be dealt with without the need for extensive police or court time, so that they will be able to concentrate on the most serious issues.”

The news comes after new legislation came into effect last month that will see all convicted drink drivers in Northern Ireland offered a course to educate them about the potential consequences of their actions.

Previously, the courts decided whether someone should be referred to the course.

Those who complete the programme will see their disqualification period reduced by up to 25%. Each person who attends the course must pay a £155 course fee, but attendance will be voluntary.

According to the latest PSNI statistics, in 2020, there were 47,077 detections for motoring offences in Northern Ireland, a decrease of 2,816 (6%) on the 49,893 offences recorded in 2019.

Of the 47,077 offences detected last year, 60% resulted in a referral for prosecution and over 25% resulted in fixed penalty notices.

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