End scandal of police ‘prosecuted for doing their job’
23 November 2018
PFEW's Tim Rogers with Sir Henry Bellingham MP
Today (Friday) is a key date in our campaign to protect police drivers from being unfairly prosecuted simply for doing their jobs.
A Private Members Bill by the senior government backbencher, Sir Henry Bellingham MP, is due to receive its second reading at Parliament. His Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill seeks greater exemptions from civil liability or criminal prosecution for blue light workers.
The Federation has been advancing this important issue as part of our Protect the Protectors campaign.
As things stand, police officers risk their livelihoods and liberty every time they are required to drive in a way that an ordinary member of the public would not. This is because the common legal standard of a ‘careful and competent driver’ applies equally to the emergency services as it does any other member of the public.
A police officer can still be prosecuted for dangerous or careless driving even if they are following established police tactics and acting in accordance with their training, warned PFEW’s national pursuits lead, Tim Rogers.
Sgt Rogers, who has been campaigning on this issue for close to eight years, and has been working closely with Sir Henry on his Bill, added: “The Federation has seen numerous examples of our members falling foul of the law for following their training and police tactics – in effect punished for doing their job.
“What does it say about our society when police officers can even be held liable for the reckless behaviour of criminals? Juries are often told by a Coroner that a police driver can be considered to have caused a fleeing subject’s death. This is despite the police driver giving an instruction to stop and the subject doing precisely the opposite.”
The Federation has so far stopped short of advising our members not to give chase, but we continue to remind them of the risks.
National Chair John Apter has written to the Home Office to seek assurances of how the Government will act to protect emergency responders, in the likely event that Sir Henry’s Bill is not read as planned, due to there being others ahead of it in the queue.
The Home Office held a consultation over the summer on proposals to introduce a new driver standard specifically for police officers. The Federation argued that this would simply raise the bar for officers and might result in more, not fewer, prosecutions.
We argued instead that the same criminal law should apply to police as other drivers but with exemptions that permit officers to perform their role. The Government appears to be persuaded by our reasoning but has yet to say how and when it intends to amend the law.
Tim Rogers said: “There are over a million response drives every year in England and Wales – each with the potential to put our officers at risk. Urgent action is needed.”
More about our police drivers campaign