29 March 2018
Leicestershire Police Federation chair Tiff Lynch has described an 11th-hour delay to a new bill which would offer better protection to police response drivers as ‘extremely disappointing’.
The second reading of the Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill, scheduled for Friday 16 March, was stalled by the Government until an on-going review ‘into the law and best practice regarding police pursuits’ was complete.
“This is a bill which received cross-party support in the House of Commons before Christmas and we were hopeful that it would move a step closer to becoming law,” says Tiff, “It is aimed at giving emergency response drivers suitable protection from the risk of prosecution while carrying out their jobs.
“The delay means these officers are still in a vulnerable position because their training is not taken into account when their driving is judged against the standards of the careful and competent driver who is unlikely to be using the highly-skilled tactics of emergency response drivers.
“Unfortunately, current legislation means there are no exemptions in place to take into account the high level of specialised training they have undertaken for their roles. It is clearly time for a change in the law and this delay is frustrating.”
The Police Federation of England and Wales’ national pursuits lead, Tim Rogers, says the Government should now ‘put its money where its mouth is’.
He said: “To get this disappointing news just hours away from a key legislative milestone, which had already secured cross-party support, is a bitter blow – and all the more devastating.
“What are our members and fellow emergency response drivers to do in the meantime? How many more lives could be ruined going through lengthy legal proceedings – ultimately criminalising officers for just doing their job?
“We have fought extremely hard for more than seven years to get to this point, liaising with the Home Office, National Police Chiefs’ Council, MPs from all parties and many, many other stakeholders. We finally thought the end was in sight, with a workable solution which would help protect our 120,000 plus members from prosecution for just doing their jobs, only to have it snatched from us at the last minute.
“The Government says it ‘remains broadly supportive of the intention behind the Private Members Bill’ and we know a review is ongoing.
“But this news will be a bitter blow to our specially-trained police drivers and the other emergency services who will now face an indefinite period continuing to run the risk of possibly losing their jobs if they respond to a ‘blue-light’ call.
“We will not stop campaigning for this important legislative change and we will be pushing for a meeting with the Police Minister as a matter of urgency.
“The Federation will also now have to consider its position and what advice to issue to members.”
In December, policing minister Nick Hurd supported the bill in Parliament when it was introduced by senior backbench MP Sir Henry Bellingham.
Tim concluded: “The minister has agreed that we need appropriate changes to reflect driver training in law and he went further in instructing the Policing Powers section of the Home Office to make the necessary changes in further recognition of this. This makes the position we find ourselves in now all the more upsetting and baffling.”