We continue to campaign for a change in legislation 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, PFEW's Pursuits Lead.
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 law 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”.
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). Dangerous driving includes speeding, ignoring traffic signals or overtaking dangerously. There can also be liability for causing others to drive dangerously.
Police drivers are trained to the College of Policing standard. However this standard is not supported by the current law.
This video tells the story of PC Vaughan Lowe, a response driver from West Midlands who was under investigation for six years for a response drive that resulted in the death of a pedestrian.
What are we doing about it?
The Federation has enlisted the support of the senior government backbencher Sir Henry Bellingham MP, who introduced his Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament in December 2017. The Bill was accepted with cross party sponsors on that occasion but is still awaiting its second reading, after an attempt on 23 November 2018 ran out of time.
Separately, the Home Office proposed the establishment of a new driving standard, a 'careful and competent police driver' as a means of providing officers with the legal protections the Federation has called for. In our consultation response to the Home Office in summer 2018, PFEW argued that a new driving standard for police officers would have the effect of raising the bar and could result in more, not fewer, prosecutions. We proposed instead that there should be greater exemptions for police under the current legal standard. The IOPC and CPS have also been supportive of our preferred way forward.
We understand that the Home Office is also in agreement but we await public confirmation of this in addition to the results of their consultation.
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.
- 2017 - In June, 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.
- 2017 - In November, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the NPCC: "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 - December: Sir Henry Bellingham MP presents Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill to the House of Commons.
- 2018 - 2nd reading of Sir Henry's bill halted in March and July as Home Office launches Police Pursuits: Current Position and Proposals for Change consultation.
- 2018 - August: the Home Office consultation closes and the IOPC announced it would be supportive of a new legal standard which recognises the advanced training and experience of police response drivers.
- 2018 - On 23 November, there was further disappointment as Parliament ran out of time to give Sir Henry Bellingham's Bill a second reading. However, PFEW National Chair John Apter said he believed good progress is being made with the Government in addressing police driver vulnerability.
- 2019 - March. The next opportunity for Sir Henry's Bill to receive its 2nd reading.