10 June 2021
The progress made towards better protecting police drivers in law is welcomed by the Police Federation, however a flaw in the draft bill means they can still face prosecution just for doing their job.
On day two of our Annual Conference, Tim Rogers, PFEW’s National Driver Training and Pursuits Lead, gave an update on our long-running Police Drivers campaign.
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’.
Through the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill, which is expected to gain Royal Assent in the new year, police officers will be better protected, thanks to years of PFEW lobbying.
A new legal test will be applied meaning their driving will be measured against that of a ‘careful and competent police driver’- but would still leave them exposed.
“An officer will be licenced to drive in accordance to what they have been trained to do but nothing more. Performing a manoeuvre which is not trained or in policy is likely to fall into the new definition of dangerous and careless driving under a new test against the careful and competent police driver”, Mr Rogers explained.
“Going beyond the terms of that licence could give rise to criminal liability. I have grave concerns around the practicality of this approach.
“What’s a police officer to do if they encounter something which falls outside of this policy? The bill in its current format won’t permit a police officer to respond legally when confronted by the many and varied situations officers are likely to encounter while driving police vehicles.”
The Federation has raised this concern with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and is pressing the Government to consider adding a reasonableness defence clause to the bill to give officers flexibility to respond legally to the matters they encounter on duty.
This would take into account what they reasonably believe they are responding to, the threat that is posed and any departure from the relevant standard should be reasonable and proportionate.
“We are very grateful for the support so far from the Government, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Independent Office for Police Conduct,” he concluded.