4 July 2019
Government must urgently pass legislation to recognise specialist driver training to prevent police drivers from unfair prosecution – as another officer is hounded out of his job.
PC Russell Kyle, who resigned from Sussex Police in March, is the latest victim of MPs’ collective failure to ensure that proper safeguards are in place for officers who follow their training when responding to emergencies.
PC Kyle knocked over a pedestrian while on his way to deal with a suspected terrorist attack on Brighton seafront in September 2017, three months after the London Bridge attacks.
The injured man suffered broken ribs in the accident but made a full recovery. PC Kyle was charged with dangerous driving after a nine-month investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the force instigated gross misconduct proceedings.
The unfairness of the position PC Kyle was placed in, is that in doing his duty to the public and following his training, he breached the legal standard of the careful and competent driver, and had little option but to accept the lesser charge of careless driving.
Dave Blundell, Roads Policing Lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said: “Once again we have a scenario where a police officer acting in the public interest has been pursued through the courts and force disciplinary hearings for simply doing what he has been trained to do. The Government, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Police Federation recognise that this is wrong. It is unacceptable that brave and dedicated officers are still having their careers, livelihood and wellbeing put on the line while they wait for the law to change.
“My colleagues need the assurance that when they seek to protect the public the law will protect them.”
As PC Kyle’s lawyer, Mark Aldred, who represented him at court, said: “He was responding to what appeared to be marauding attackers with weapons. He made his way – unarmed – to the scene whilst members of the public were running away from the danger.
“Momentary lapses in driving skill in unpredictable environments whilst under extreme pressure brought about by brave and well motivated conduct should not be characterised as gross misconduct.”
At court on Monday (1 July) PC Kyle chose to plead guilty to the lesser charge after hearing the case would be adjourned for another six months if he denied it.
Following campaigning by PFEW, the Policing Minister confirmed on 2 May that the Home Office will seek a new driving standard which takes into account police officers’ training.
We now need to see that commitment followed through, with a firm timeline of when and how they intend to do so – this is the least our officers deserve.