IOPC support for response driver protections

22 August 2018

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The Federation today welcomes a statement from the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) in support of new legal safeguards for police response drivers.

Under existing laws, an officer can face prosecution whenever they are engage in an emergency response drive or a pursuit. In some cases they have been held liable for accidents and injuries caused by fleeing criminals.

This is because the law holds police to the same standard as a regular motorist, with no regard to their high level of training or experience. The Home Office is proposing to address this by establishing a new driving standard – a careful and competent police driver.

IOPC Deputy Director General Ian Todd acknowledged that: “Police drivers need to pursue suspects and respond quickly to emergency calls as part of their duty – and that’s what the public want them to do. So it’s right that their training and skills are properly recognised in law.”

The Federation has campaigned extensively to highlight the risks officers face while carrying out the duties the public expects of them. Our Roads Policing Lead, Tim Rogers, also has worked with backbench MP Sir Henry Bellingham on the latter’s Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill, which is awaiting its second reading subject to the government introducing its own bill.

Mr Rogers said: “It is positive that the IOPC supports the intent that police officers who are appropriately trained and authorised, should be able to pursue suspects or respond to emergencies without fear of prosecution or disciplinary action. 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.

“This is an issue we have been campaigning on now for several years and although it is a positive step that the government has finally agreed that a legislation change is required, they must now act quickly to prevent more officers suffering unnecessary and often mendacious prosecutions. We look forward to working with parliament to shape what that legislation looks like.

“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."

The IOPC said it would like to see legislation specifically state that this is a police driver trained to a relevant and appropriate standard. This would allow investigators and the Crown Prosecution Service to take into account a driver’s higher level of training and skill.

The police watchdog also supports a review of emergency services exemptions from certain aspects of road safety law, with the caveat that it should seek to avoid ‘unintended consequences’ for public safety and should not undermine the ability of the IOPC to hold the police to account.

Response officers such as PCs Vaughan Lowe, James Ellerton and James Holden have all spoken about the stress and strains of being subject to lengthy investigations and misconduct hearings.

The Home Office consultation document can be viewed here and the IOPC’s full response is here.