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.”