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West Midlands Police Federation

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Tim welcomes plans for change to response driving laws

2 May 2019

The Home Office has today (Thursday 2 May) issued a Written Ministerial Statement announcing plans to change the law to give police drivers better protection from prosecution.

Tim Rogers, deputy secretary of West Midlands Police Federation and the Federation’s national response driving lead, has led the campaign for legislative change and has welcomed the Home Office’s announcement.

“We are pleased and reassured by this move. For far too long, police officers have faced conduct proceedings and criminal prosecution for simply doing their job; a situation putting them, and their families, through stressful investigations and often taking them away from their roles serving their communities," he said.

“It is clearly absurd that a trained police driver is currently judged by the standards of the careful and competent member of the public in terms of their driving. Members of the public are not asked to respond to emergency and life-threatening situations. You would not expect them to have to use the skills of a professional police driver nor have their driving experience.

“Members of the public would expect police officers to use their skill and training to respond to calls for assistance and this change in the law will enable officers to do that without fear of prosecution for simply doing their jobs.

“We now need the Government to be bold, prioritise this issue, find Parliamentary time and fulfil its promise to police officers and the public.”

Tim has also praised the Home Office, the Department of Transport, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and a number of members of the National Police Chiefs’ Council for their support.

The Home Office wants to change the law to ensure that highly trained police drivers, chasing suspected criminals on the roads and driving to the very high standard required by their training, are better protected from the risk of lengthy investigation and potential prosecution.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid will look to introduce a new legal test aimed at giving them greater confidence to pursue suspects, including those on mopeds.

He said: “It’s vital police officers feel confident and protected when pursing suspects on the roads or responding to an emergency. It’s also crucial that we send a clear message that criminals – whether in cars or on mopeds - cannot escape arrest simply by driving recklessly. These proposed changes will strike the right balance – giving trained officers the confidence they need to fight crime effectively and ensure our roads are safe.”

Current laws do not recognise police response drivers’ training and the tactics they are taught to employ to respond to emergencies and pursue criminals.

Police drivers are instead held to the same standards as members of the public and have to rely on the discretion of the IOPC and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to avoid misconduct investigations and criminal prosecution. 

Any changes will make it clear that officers should not be held accountable for the driving of a suspected criminal attempting to avoid arrest, providing the pursuit is justified and proportionate.

The move follows a public consultation which saw the overwhelming majority of respondents back the proposals.

In summary, the changes will aim to:

  • Introduce a new legal test so that an officer’s driving is compared to that of a competent and careful police driver with the same level of training performing the same role, rather than a member of the public
  • Apply to all police officers trained to response driver level as well as advance driver level, therefore cover those pursuing criminals and also emergency police responders.

The Government also wants to review the various emergency service exemptions to traffic law to ensure they remain fit for purpose.

The Home Office announcement.