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Bill could criminalise more police drivers than it protects, warns Fed

While the introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill has been welcomed by the Federation, it says wording must be amended to protect officers from being prosecuted for their driving.

Tim Rogers, pursuits driving lead for the Federation nationally and deputy secretary of West Midlands Police Federation

Tim Rogers, pursuits driving lead for the Federation nationally and deputy secretary of West Midlands Police Federation

Date - 9th March 2021
By - Chloe Livadeas
3 Comments 3 Comments}

The Federation have been campaigning for years for a change in the law to ensure that officers’ specialist training and police tactics can be taken into account when their driving is legally scrutinised.

They argue that the current legislation leaves police drivers vulnerable to prosecution for careless or dangerous driving.

Today (9 March) the Criminal Justice Bill was introduced to parliament which gives better protection to officers involved in driving incidents, with the introduction of a new test to assess the standard of driving following a collision. The test permits courts to judge the standard against a ‘competent and careful peer’ with the same training, rather than with a member of the public.

Tim Rogers, the Federation’s driver training and response lead says that more work still needs to be done to ensure the new legislation does not serve to further criminalise officers if they breach their force’s driving policies.

Mr Rogers, who is also West Midlands Police Federation deputy secretary, called today’s introduction of the Bill a significant step towards giving police drivers the legal protections they need when doing their job and said it was a “landmark moment”.

“It has been a long process to get to this point and I am grateful to everyone who has supported this campaign,” he added.

“But, as the Bill progresses through the various stages of becoming law, we have to ensure that there is close scrutiny of the wording of the new legislation. The current wording will see officers’ driving assessed according to the standard of the careful and competent police driver and could serve to criminalise breaches of driving policy.”

He said this has the potential to see more officers being charged under the very legislation that is being introduced to offer them better legal protection.

“It is impossible for every element of police driving to be covered by policy but any deviance of policy, perhaps simply because a certain tactic is not included in a driver training directory, could lead to a conclusion that a criminal offence has been committed. We need an exemption to cover these matters.

“Police officers simply should not be singled out for criminal prosecution for behaviour which, if it occurred in any other profession, would be a matter for regulation and a civil action. 

“Under the current provisions of the Bill, a police driver driving above the standard of the careful and competent member of the public but below that of an elite class of police driver would potentially render themselves liable to criminal prosecution.”

He cited an incident involving a target vehicle being driven the wrong way down a dual carriageway. There is no provision for this in the Approved Professional Practice or the TAC directory and could lead to an officer being charged with a criminal offence. Mr Rogers said there has to be an acceptance that officers are expected to react instinctively sometimes in order to protect the public.

“We need an exemption to the offence to be included on the legislation to reflect the fact that there will be occasions where an officer is expected to act outside of their licensed training,” he said.

He is now seeking to raise his concerns with the Policing minister Kit Malthouse.

He is suggesting wording that would set out reasons why officers could depart from the usual standard by which they would be judged including the departure being ‘reasonable’ and ‘proportionate’ in the circumstances.

He told Police Oracle the support from the Home Office is there and he is confident the issue can be resolved.

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chris24pc - Thu, 11 March 2021

Back in the day, when I became an 'Advanced' driver, I spent 4 weeks flying around the country, having daily tests and checks. If I passed my final drive I was allowed to drive the area car for 6 months. Providing I had not had an accident during this time I re-attended the driving school for another 2 weeks and eventually got my advanced driver standard.
In them days we only had advanced drivers, panda drivers (basic) and van drivers.
I few short years later the 'Response' driver was born. A response drivers training comprised of 2 weeks training!!!!!!!
You really don't need to be a brain surgeon to realise that these cut backs to driver training result in more negative incidents.