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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

Federation Chair: The use of vehicles as weapons against police is a growing problem

16 December 2020

The use of vehicles as weapons against police officers is a growing problem, the Chair of Devon and Cornwall Police Federation has said, after a man was jailed for driving into an officer in Exeter.

Devon and Cornwall Police Federation Chair Andy Berry said: “I don’t think that anyone watching the dash-cam footage for the incident would not be shocked and horrified by the brutality of the attack.

“The use of a vehicle in that way is no different to swinging an axe at a person and in this case we can only be thankful that by chance Sgt Alex Howden was not killed or more seriously injured.”

Sgt Howden suffered a broken leg and head injuries when he was hit by a car driven by Damien Price at a Sainbury’s car park in March this year. Price had earlier reversed into the car of a couple in their sixties in a road rage attack, after punching the man in the face. The couple, who had exited their car, were knocked to the ground.

Sgt Howden had just arrived at the scene and was trying to prevent Price from fleeing the car park when Price drove into him. Sgt Howden’s recovery is expected to take more than a year.

After the attack, members of the public pulled Price from his vehicle and detained him until he was arrested. He later bit another officer, PC Nicholas Weston, on the arm while in the back of a police car.

This week Price was jailed for six and a half years after admitting GBH and dangerous driving. He will also serve five years on licence and be banned from driving for 10 years.

Andy said: “The use of vehicles as weapons, particularly against police, seems to be a growing problem and of course sometimes, in the case of PC Andrew Harper, has deadly consequences. 

“Therefore I believe that there should be a review of the law to ensure that courts have sufficient sentencing options to adequately punish offenders who use vehicles in such a way, and permanently restrict their use of vehicles in the future to protect the public.

“Finally I think something else captured on the dashcam footage was the bravery and willingness of the public to run to Sgt Howden’s assistance and I am so grateful for their actions.”

Following the trial, Sgt Howden praised the members of the public who had helped him. He said: “I genuinely couldn't have had a better reaction from the people there, who were so kind and considerate. Their immediate actions were incredibly positive.”