PFEW issues reminder to officers on pursuits as new legislation ‘has not progressed’

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has written a letter to all 43 forces, advising officers to drive like a “careful and competent non-police driver” during pursuits after failing to advance legislation for greater protection for police drivers.

Jun 29, 2017

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has written a letter to all 43 forces, advising officers to drive like a “careful and competent non-police driver” during pursuits after failing to advance legislation for greater protection for police drivers. It hopes the correspondence will reduce police related accidents and significantly reduce proceedings against officers for motoring offences. In the letter, it said a course of driving involving the breach of traffic signs and speed limits is “very likely to fall within the definition of careless or dangerous driving”. It added: “Officers are required by law to drive to the standard of the careful and competent driver. Not the careful and competent police driver, the careful and competent (non-police) driver. This is the standard police drivers will be held to.” The letter warned that although emergency response drivers are exempt from following traffic signs, speed limit rules and traffic lights, there are no legal exemptions from the offences of careless or dangerous driving if an accident was to happen. Any pursuit considered to be unlawful can place the driver at risk of prosecution and proceedings for gross misconduct, potentially leading to dismissal. However, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, said police officers responding to emergencies are covered by legal guidance that shows it is not in the public interest to prosecute them. “Individual forces receive hundreds of thousands of 999 calls every month to respond to emergencies,” he added. “The existing guidance enables officers to use their extensive training to respond to emergencies as quickly as possible without putting members of the public at risk. There are clear exemptions in law for officers in these situations. Together with our colleagues in the fire and ambulance services we are deeply proud to be a service that reacts first to protect the public from danger. “Current guidance from the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service already recognises that it is unlikely to be in the public interest to prosecute officers for driving offences while they are responding to emergency calls. There have been very few incidents in which an officer responding to emergency has been prosecuted or had misconduct charges brought against them.” At its conference in May, the PFEW made a pledge to propose a change in legislation to protect officers who engage in pursuits. The matter has been raised with a number of MPs including Brandon Lewis, Amber Rudd, Nick Hurd and Diane Abbott, as well as National Police Chiefs’ Council leads. Tim Rogers, PFEW lead on roads policing, said this has not progressed to a point where officers are properly protected. “We are keen to remind our drivers that they should drive within the law,” he added. “There are three exemptions for drivers in emergency situations, and we have sent this letter to our 43 forces to remind them of the risks in driving. It is just a reminder and we will continue to work with the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs’ Council to find a positive outcome to this. “Legal advice has recently highlighted that police response and pursuit drives are, in most circumstances, highly likely to fall within the definitions of careless and or dangerous driving. “The Federation has raised this matter with numerous MPs but to date the difficulties remain with our proposed draft for legislative change not yet having been progressed to a point where officers are appropriately protected.” The NPCC has insisted the general guidance and existing traffic law covering response driving in emergencies is “sufficient”.

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