Plans to give police ‘greater confidence’ to pursue suspects

10.21 | 22 May 2018 | | | 8 comments


Police drivers will have more legal protection if they are involved in a crash while pursuing criminals, as part of new Home Office plans to tackle motorcycle-related crime.

The new proposals, which have been put out for consultation, aim to send out a ‘clear message’ that criminals cannot escape arrest simply by driving recklessly.

The Government is also looking to ‘smash the myth’ that officers cannot pursue powered two wheel riders who are not wearing helmets, making it clear in law that a suspect is responsible for their own decision to drive dangerously and that blame should not be attached to the pursuing officer.

Under current law, the same legal test for careless and dangerous driving offences is applied to police officers and the general public.

Police have expressed concern that officers have to rely on Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) discretion to avoid prosecution and face lengthy Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigations and suspension from duty, only to be cleared eventually.

The Government is consulting on a separate test for police drivers that would require:

  • An officer to drive to the standard of a careful and competent police driver of a similar level of training and skill
  • The driving tactics employed, including any exemptions from road traffic legislation – such as speed limits – or contact with a suspect vehicle, are authorised appropriately and are both necessary and proportionate

The consultation also asks for views as to whether the changes should also apply to police response driving, such as when officers are called to a terrorist incident.

Nick Hurd, minister for policing and the fire service, said: “Police officers must have the confidence to pursue suspects where it is safe to do so and criminals should be in no doubt that they will not get away with a crime by simply driving recklessly.

“Our proposed changes will make sure that skilled police drivers who follow their rigorous training are protected, while ensuring the minority of officers who do cross the line are robustly held to account.”

Tim Rogers, lead on pursuit driving for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “We welcome this announcement as it is unacceptable to have officers trained to drive in a way that exposes them to prosecution merely for doing the job the public expect of them.

“It is crucial we protect the people who protect us and give them the confidence to be able to do their jobs and keep the public safe.”


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    I agree with Nigel. It’s a bit late now, but perhaps the British Police should have taken a leaf out of the US police forces’ books and used larger non-monoque construction cars which can sustain contact and not be written-off seemingly from the slightest touch. Wings bumpers etc. can be damaged without affecting the integrity of the cars and replacement is straight forward and cheap as the structure remains unaffected. Also they’re all automatics!


    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)
    +1

    Perhaps with the lack of funding that Police Forces in general are suffering they no longer have access to helicopters. Or they have access but do not use them unless its deemed extremely serious. A few years ago these vehicles were seen flying regularly on a day and night basis and were excellent for pursuit and the capture of criminals or other law breakers. This leave a void and goes back in time where the pursuit officer has no back up and lacks better information or knowledge that only an observer in a helicopter can give.


    M.Worthington, Manchester
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    0

    Just a follow on from my previous message. My sense of the standards of police driving today, by comparison with what it was when the proper police driving schools existed, well there may be a couple or so still around, is that it is nothing like it used to be.

    Now you have driver training mainly at force, and I think often at division level, incorporated with normal work, which is not the same as having been on a dedicated driving course for a number of reasons.. And nowadays you also have PCSOs driving marked vehicles. By comparison they will have had no real training (and in some cases probably none at all).

    Recently I took a look at the first of the Cop Car Workshop TV series and was horrified to hear that they had one crashed car come into the workshop every day. Taking out those which involved deliberate contact – as in the end of chases, for example – (I don’t know the figures but even so it’s still going to be pretty awful. For example, imagine removing 50% for deliberate contact or vandalism, which in Cheshire they apparently get a lot of) and you are still going to get one every other day which has been crashed in one way or another. That speaks volumes to my mind.

    I wrote to Cheshire police about this, and did they reply? No they did not, which suggests to me that bad driving is just accepted as par for the course.

    Days when police driving could be an example for the general public seem long gone. Which is very sad because there are now no reference points out there for the general public to see and be influenced by.

    And now some genius has come up with the idea that police drivers should (more or less ) not be accountable for their actions. It’s another slippery slope and, as below, definitely opening the floodgates of unaccountability. And by the way, have I watched Cop Car Worksop since? No, most certainly not.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
    Agree (2) | Disagree (0)
    +2

    I’m pleased that (to date) three other people appear to endorse the practice of left-foot braking – more than I expected to be honest! Spread the word.


    Hugh Jones
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    0

    Given the generally seen standards of police driving today, in my view this is just going to open the floodgates of unaccountability.


    Nigel ALBRIGHT
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)
    +5

    I’ll take this opportunity to point out (not for the first time) that if the police, or anyone else legitimately driving at high-speeds, especially in urban settings, want to avoid collisions, they should drive only autos and master left-foot braking wherupon stopping distances and stopping times will reduce and so inevitably will collisions. This also applies to everyday driving at normal speeds as well obviously, but the topic happens to be about high-speed pursuits where risk is escalated.


    Hugh Jones
    Agree (3) | Disagree (14)
    --11

    A lot of people, indeed I would suspect the majority, have been under the impression that the police are immune to prosecution at this current time should anything untoward happen whist they are in pursuit of a criminal etc. This also applies to some organisations that believe the same thing.

    They have never ever been immune to prosecution should the need arise and that stands the same for all of the emergency services. We saw videos of police officers aiming and actually knocking riders off their scooters…is that sort of behaviour they want to be legalised and we to tolerate. I think not.

    I see no reason for that to change and to make the police a special case. They are not immune to prosecution at this moment in time and that should stay the same. In the event of an individual officer being taken to court then they and the service must be able to defend their actions and not to be given court blanch to do whatever they wish and it be decided not by the Courts but by their own peers.


    M.Worthington
    Agree (4) | Disagree (6)
    --2

    > Under current law, the same legal test for careless and dangerous driving offences is applied to police officers and the general public.

    This should remain the status quo.

    Just because a police officer has passed a slightly different test to other road users, it does not mean that a police officer should be given carte blanche to drive dangerously. It would stink of hypocrisy at the very least.

    With regards to the use of a vehicle to remove offenders from mopeds, motorcycles and the like; how is this any different to using a TASER/other less than lethal weapon on someone who is being disorderly/causing a danger to other people in the vicinity?

    You don’t see officers ordinarily getting charged with assault for apprehending a suspect with the use of a TASER, so why the ruckus about officers using reasonable force, where the device used is a vehicle?


    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (6) | Disagree (3)
    +3