A campaign is underway to get legislation changed, to ensure that officers who engage in pursuit and response drives can be afforded better protection.
This campaign is being led by West Midlands Sergeant Tim Rogers, a member of the Interim National Board.
What needs to change, and why
The current legislation leaves police drivers vulnerable: it is illegal to engage in pursuit or response drives. This is because there are no exemptions in the current legislation that take into account the high level of specialised training officers are given. All driving standards are measured against that of a non-police trained “competent and careful driver”.
According to the law, ‘dangerous driving’ includes speeding, ignoring traffics signals, or overtaking dangerously. There can also be liability for causing others to drive dangerously.
Officers who have engaged in pursuits or response drivers have, in the past, been charged with dangerous driving, even if no complaints were made, and no one was injured (the outcome is not the matter that should be considered although it almost always is the catalyst).
Police drivers are trained to the College of Policing standard. However this standard is not supported by the current law.
In June 2017, fresh guidance was issued to by the PFEW to forces, reminding drivers to ensure that their driving remains within the law. This guidance was issued as the wait for a change in legislation goes on. It does not tell drivers not to engage in emergency drives, but reminds them of the risks they may be taking. Every year the Federation receives numerous requests for assistance from members who are being pursued for on-duty driving-related matters, and end up in court simply for following the training they have been given.
What we are doing about it
The Police Federation is campaigning for an appropriate legislative change that reflects the high standard to which Police Officers are trained to be taken into consideration. We are being supported in this by backbench Conservative MP, Sir Henry Bellingham, who introduced his Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament on 20 December 2017. The Bill was accepted with cross party sponsors and no dissent and is due a second reading on Friday 6 July 2018.
The government has also responded by launching a consultation on establishing a new driving standard of a 'careful and competent police driver'. We encourage all members to engage with the consultation as another means of securing the protections in law which officers need. It runs on the Home Office website until Monday 13 August.
PFEW's Tim Rogers says: “It is great that the Government is committed to change, but ministers need to act sooner not later to legally protect officers. In a typical year there are 20,000 police pursuits and more than a million response drives in England and Wales – each and every one of those puts our members at risk unfairly. We cannot allow the situation to drag on, we need action now.”
Timeline of activity:
- 2012 - work by PFEW helps lead to the Crown Prosecution Service creating the Crown Prosecutors Guidance.
- 2016 - barrister Mark Aldred led a session on pursuits at the national Roads Policing Conference; PFEW met with Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, NPCC pursuits lead, Anthony Bangham, Policing Minister Mike Penning, and Louise Ellman chair of the transport select committee. Watch the presentation to PFEW's 2016 Annual Conference.
- 2017 - At PFEW's Annual Conference CC Bangham gave a firm commitment to working with the Federation to ensure that police drivers get the best training and agreed that pursuit drivers needed better protection; Policing Minister Nick Hurd outlined a review and Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the NPCC in November: "We're reviewing the law and practice regarding police pursuits. We want to make sure officers feel they have the legal protection they need to go after moped and scooter gangs."
- 2017 - Sir Henry Bellingham MP presents Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill to the House of Commons.
- 2018 - Second reading of Sir Henry's bill halted in March and rescheduled for 6 July as Home Office launches Police Pursuits: Current Position and Proposals for Change consultation.
Home Office Consultation
In response to years of lobbying by the Federation, the government is considering changes in law which could offer greater protection to police officers in pursuit situations. It proposes to make it clear that the suspect being pursued is responsible for their own decision to drive dangerously (officers should not bear the blame) and a police officers' specialist training should be taken into account in any post incident investigation. We are encouraging members to take part in the Home Office's online consultation before it closes at noon on 13 August.