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.
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.
The Home Office is also in agreement and confirmed this publicly on 2 May 2019 through the release of a Written Ministerial Statement but PFEW campaigning will continue until warm words are translated into a change of legislation