Police Investigation & CPS

Following a serious road traffic collision there will be a police investigation. The police investigation will be open minded, with police officers gathering facts to understand how the collision came to occur.

The College of Policing provides learning standards regarding serious and fatal road traffic collisions that the police adhere to. This is available online to members of the public and can be viewed at www.college.police.uk.

Who’s who in a Police Investigation?

Family Liaison Officer

Following a fatal collision the police will appoint a Family Liaison Officer (FLO) who will act as a point of contact between the family and Senior Investigating Officer. Some of the responsibilities of the FLO include:

  • provision of updates on the investigation
  • assistance with identification purposes
  • offer of practical support
  • assistance with attendance at court
  • liaison with the coroner
  • assistance with the Victim Impact Statement, allowing you to describe the impact of losing your loved one


Senior Investigating Officer

The investigation is led by the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), who will direct the investigation. The SIO will provide updates regarding the investigation, either personally or through the FLO. If you have any questions you should not hesitate to ask to speak directly with the SIO.

Areas of the investigation will include:

  • witness evidence
  • CCTV footage
  • medical records
  • forensic vehicle examination
  • forensic examination of the scene
  • mobile phone interrogation
  • suspect interview

Where somebody has died or been seriously injured in a collision, police will treat the location as a crime scene, and not simply “an accident”. You should not feel uncomfortable asking questions of the investigation. This will allow you to be reassured that the investigation meets the standards imposed by the College of Policing.


Forensic Collision Investigator

The Forensic Collision Investigator will examine the collision scene and any vehicles involved soon after the collision has occurred. They will perform a scene survey to record vehicles and debris and will photograph the scene. Evidence gathered can include:

  • opinion on speed
  • seatbelt usage
  • reconstruction of the collision
  • collision damage interpretation
  • prepare reports for court

The evidence gathered during this process will play an important part of the investigation.


Investigating Officer

The Investigating Officer is responsible for the compilation and submission of the conclusive file to either the Coroner or the Crown Prosecution Service. The Investigating Officer coordinates all strands of the investigation in order to establish how the collision occurred and who, if anyone, was at fault. The type of work carried out includes:

  • interviewing both witnesses and suspects
  • following all lines of enquiry
  • interpreting data obtained from mobile phones and CCTV
  • liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Coroner
  • preparation of prosecution and coroner’s files

How long does a Police Investigation take?

This will depend on the type of incident the police are dealing with. Generally, the Coroner will want to hold an inquest within 6 months of when the collision occurred. Families can sometimes become frustrated with the length of the police investigation, however this is sometimes unavoidable if the investigation is complex.

Evidence should be gathered and assessed as close to the time of the collision as possible, as this will represent the best possible evidence. You should not hesitate to ask the FLO and the SIO for the anticipated time scales in respect of the investigation.

In a fatal collision the Coroner will be asking for periodic updates from the Police regarding the investigation. A review hearing is generally held every 2 months starting from when the initial inquest was opened. This allows the police to update the Coroner on the progress of the investigation.


What happens at the end of a Police Investigation?

At the conclusion of the Police investigation a report will be produced by the Investigating Officer. A decision will be made by the SIO as to whether the file will go to the Coroner or the Crown Prosecution Service, should it be deemed to be a suspected criminal investigation.


The Crown Prosecution Service

There is a “Code for Crown Prosecutors” which is a public document issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions that sets out the general principles Crown Prosecutors should follow when they make decisions on cases. There are general two elements to this:

Is there enough evidence against the Defendant?
When deciding whether there is enough evidence to charge, Crown Prosecutors must consider whether evidence can be used in court and whether such evidence is reliable and credible. Crown Prosecutors must be satisfied there is enough evidence to provide a “realistic prospect of conviction” against each Defendant.

Is it in the public interest for the CPS to bring the case to court?
A prosecution will usually take place unless the prosecutor is sure that the public interest factors tending against prosecution outweigh those tending in favour.