HOTA is an acronym for Home Office Type Approval, a testing and certification process by the Home Office in the United Kingdom that speed cameras must pass before evidence from them can be admissible in UK courts by way of certification in accordance with Section 20 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (RTOA) (Amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991). It is a misconception that speed enforcement devices must be Home Office Type Approved before they may be deployed on public roads to gather evidence of speeding offences however if the device does not have UK Type Approval then the evidence from the device is not able to be certified but must be adduced by a witness and perhaps an expert witness who is able to adduce evidence of its accuracy. The RTOA route via Section 20 certification is a clear advantage over the unapproved equipment route to court.
The Type Approval of devices that meet the definitions or more accurately "prescriptions" of types of devices in Statutory Instruments (forms of secondary legislation) is carried out by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch of the UK Home Office in conjunction with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) who meet in committee 3 or 4 times per year to discuss the testing of equipment in the process.
There are two components to the certification process:
- Association of Chief Police Officers Traffic Enforcement Technology Sub-Committee (ACPO TET) testing
- Home Office testing
Only when both parts of the testing are completed and the equipment fully meets the specifications in the relevant HOSDB Speedmeter Handbook will the equipment be recommended to the Secretary of State to be awarded UK Type Approval. Once recommended an administrative process takes place between the Home Office and the UK manufacturer or distributing agent in which a contract (Type Approval Agreement) is exchanged and agreed between both parties. When that contract is signed then a Type Approval Certificate is signed by a minister at the Home Office; the equipment can then be used to produce certifiable evidence, evidence of speeding that is admissible in UK courts without the support of a witness. There is no requirement to place the Type Approval Agreement or Certificate of Type Approval before Parliament because the Statutory Instrument defining the "type" of equipment has already been fully ratified by both Houses of Parliament.
In engineering terms, HOTA is poor. The pass mark, the Speedmeter Handbook, specifically requires a car and not other vehicle types, with no distance variation tested, weather types specified, vehicle colour or reflectivity evaluation, no multiple vehicles in field of view, no road furniture and no evaluation of hand movements; variations that can occur in operational use. The testing is not carried out by the Home Office, but by a subcontractor paid for by the manufacturer. The accuracy limits are sufficiently poor that the ACPO RPET Committee argued against the introduction of driver penalties that varied according to the degree of speeding.