Trained Police Drivers

Police cars

A campaign is underway to get legislation changed, to ensure that officers who engage in pursuit and response drives can be afforded better protection.

This campaign is being led by West Midlands Sergeant Tim Rogers, a member of the Interim National Board.

What needs to change, and why

The current legislation leaves police drivers vulnerable: it is illegal to engage in pursuit or response drives. This is because there are no exemptions in the current legislation that take into account the high level of specialised training officers are given. All driving standards are measured against that of a non-police trained “competent and careful driver”.

According to the law, ‘dangerous driving’ includes speeding, ignoring traffics signals, or overtaking dangerously. There can also be liability for causing others to drive dangerously.

Officers who have engaged in pursuits or response drivers have, in the past, been charged with dangerous driving, even if no complaints were made, and no one was injured (the outcome is not the matter that should be considered although it almost always is the catalyst).

Police drivers are trained to the College of Policing standard. However this standard is not supported by the current law.

In June 2017, fresh guidance was issued to by the PFEW to forces, reminding drivers to ensure that their driving remains within the law.

This guidance was issued as the wait for a change in legislation goes on. It does not tell drivers not to engage in emergency drives, but reminds them of the risks they may be taking. Every year the Federation receives numerous requests for assistance from members who are being pursued for on-duty driving-related matters, and end up in court simply for following the training they have been given.

What we are doing about it

The Police Federation is working to have this changed, and wants appropriate legislative change that reflects the high standard to which Police Officers are trained to be taken into consideration.

Since 2012, work done by the Police Federation of England and Wales helped lead to the Crown Prosecution Service creating the Crown Prosecutors Guidance.

In January 2016, a session was held on pursuits, led by barrister Mark Aldred, at the national Roads Policing Conference. At the conference, attended by roads policing federation representatives and delegates, Mr Aldred focused on this glitch in the legislation. He went into detail about what the implications of it are, including the fact that if the political will is there, there is a very real chance of an officer being prosecuted for engaging in a pursuit or response drive.

You can watch the presentation to the Police Federation’s Annual Conference 2016 on the web: Conference 2016 - Wednesday PM 1 /2

In April 2016, Sergeant Tim Rogers and Mark Aldred met with the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright. Mr Aldred prepared and presented a legal precis on the current position. Tim Rogers and Constable Jayne Willetts, the PFEW Roads Policing lead, met with NPCC pursuits lead, Anthony Bangham.  The NPCC supports for the need for a change in legislation but at this time believe that only advanced drivers require this appropriate reflection of their training.

Louise Ellman chair of the transport select committee met with Tim Rogers on October 19 in order to discuss how her group may be able to assist.

Dialogue between then-Policing Minister, Mike Penning, from Ministry of Justice and Tim Rogers happened in May and June, 2016.

The Chairman, Steve White, also wrote to the new Policing Minister in September about the issue.

The issue was again discussed at 2017's Annual Conference, where CC Bangham gave his firm commitment to working with the Federation to ensure that police drivers get the best training and agreed that pursuit drivers needed better protection. A video of the session, which also included Mr Aldred, Sgt Rogers and Merseyside officer James Ellerton is also available.

Case studies

In 2012, patrol officer PC James Holden was charged with dangerous driving after a pursuing a stolen van.  The charges by CPS came following a review by the Hampshire Constabulary. No complaints were made about his driving, and no members of the public were injured in the pursuit. The case made it to trial, where a jury cleared PC Holden within two hours of deliberations. The case sparked a conversation about police pursuits, and the lack of protection. Both CPS and the force received criticism from the local Federation, saying the officer had been through “12 months of hell” after being prosecuted for “just doing his job.” Chairman John Apter said at the time: "For [PC Holden] to perform a pursuit and then be on the wrong end of a police investigation because of that just can't be right."

PC Holden was represented by barrister Mark Aldred, who after the successful defence, gave advice to the national board. A key outcome of the resulting campaigning was the introduction of the Crown Prosecutors Guidance.

At the time, Police Oracle quoted ACC Andy Holt, the then-ACPO lead on pursuits saying he agreed there was a problem that could only by solved through an amendment to legislation.

In January 2012, PC Vaughan Lowe was charged with causing death by careless driving after he hit a student while in an unmarked police car.  PC Lowe was responding to an ‘immediate response call’ with his blue lights and siren on. He was alleged to have reduced his speed from 62mph to 52mph. CPS initially assessed the facts as no case to answer yet after pressure from the IPCC the same evidence was deemed to meet the threshold.
He was found not guilty of causing death by careless driving after a 10-day trial in January 2015 yet still awaits proceedings for Gross Misconduct on compulsion by the IPCC.

In 2015, Skipton-based constable Adam Steventon was charged with dangerous driving after pursuing a man who drove off without paying for petrol. After a week-long trial, PC Steventon was cleared, and the judge said the officer had “had to make a judgment call against a background of a lack of training by your police force… made that call in the belief it was in the best interests of the public. It only remains for me to say it is a pleasure to say you can go free from court.”

Speaking at the time, North Yorkshire Federation representative, Mike Stubbs said it was hugely disappointing that the case ever came before a court. Instead of using internal processes to identify training issues noted during the trial, “a proactive and effective officer has been on restricted duties for 15 months, to the detriment of the public. Police officers should always be accountable to the law, but they also need the reassurance that they will be dealt with fairly and proportionately.”

Also in 2015, Met police officer PC Lee Drake was found guilty of two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. Speaking at his sentencing, Judge David Tomlinson ordered him to complete 200 hours community service, banned him from driving for 30 months, and ordered him to pay £4200 costs. He also said PC Drake could be spared him jail as he was doing his duty as a police officer at the time of the crash.
 

 

Useful Definitions

According to the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice for Roads Policing: Police Pursuits:

“… a police driver is deemed to be in pursuit when a driver/motorcyclist indicates by their actions or continuance of their manner of driving/riding that:
- they have no intention of stopping for the police, and
- the police driver believes that the driver of the subject vehicle is aware of the requirement to stop and decides to continue behind the subject vehicle with a view to either reporting its progress or stopping it…”

The definition of dangerous driving is:

“A person drives dangerously when:
- the way they drive falls far below the minimum acceptable standard expected of a competent and careful driver; and
 - it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
Some typical examples from court cases of dangerous driving are:
- racing, going too fast, or driving aggressively;
 - ignoring traffic lights, road signs or warnings from passengers;
 - overtaking dangerously; …”

You can read more on the CPS.GOV.UK website
 

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