"Seventy drivers at risk of being prosecuted for doing their job""
Seventy police officers were involved in driving related matters that led to them being in jeopardy of prosecution in 2017, officers have been told.
The concerning numbers were revealed by National Police Federation of England and Wales Representatives, Jayne Willets and Tim Rogers, at the recent Staffordshire Police Federation Post Incident Procedure seminar.
The pair updated delegates on the progress being made on legislation changes to protect response drivers, as well as highlighting the importance of Post Incident Procedures.
Tim outlined how reliant Britain is on professional driving in the Police with some 10,000 jobs responded to by Police Officers nationally per year.
However, the reality of just how vulnerable Officers were on these drives was revealed.
Tim said: “In 2017 alone, 70 officers were involved in driving related matters that led to them being in jeopardy of prosecution. They all thought they were protected, they all thought they were doing their job.”
Tim continued “Every cop that I’ve ever dealt with who’s been on a gross misconduct investigation or a criminal investigation has said to me, ‘I was doing my job, I thought I was protected, I thought I had exemptions. I never envisaged that this would ever happen to me’.”
Although Tim praised the recent changes to driver training, with this now having a countrywide standard, he highlighted that Officers still weren’t as protected as they should be and that legal changes needed to be made.
He added: “Officers need to be trained so as they have the skills to do the ever-increasingly demanding job that they’re expected to do. A standard response driver is trained to a standard to enable them to respond safely to incidents requiring the use of legal exemptions.
“If you’re doing your job as you’ve been trained, no one is going to say that you’ve done a bad thing, no one could possibly say that you’ve broken the law.
“But what happens when you do the same drive that you’ve done 1,000 times, and one day, something completely unexpected happens. They’re going to look at the driving.
“Something’s gone wrong, the Officer has breached the standard of a careful and competent driver, and so it should be put before the CPS, and the CPS have to apply that standard. This could possibly end up with that officer, who hasn’t done anything wrong, being charged and having to go through the judicial system.
“Any deviation from the standard amounts to an offense. If you deviate in a way that causes harm or damage, then that’s dangerous driving. And, whether you’re pursuing or responding, you face the same issue.”
The Police Federation of England and Wales has been campaigning for a change in legislation with the Emergency Services Response Drivers Bill – which would offer greater legal protection to pursuit drivers – currently going through Parliament.
Tim added: “Through that we’ve been lobbying minsters, liaising with the NPCC and, importantly, we’re informing officers of the risk they face on a daily basis. There seems to be a bit a misinterpretation of, ‘We are protected’, when in fact, they’re not.
“Emergency driving is illegal, and the law is in urgent need of reform. The current exemptions, on which we rely, that are designed to permit emergency service drivers, are unsatisfactory and they’re unworkable. The government are aware. The NPCC are aware. We’ve been working on this for years, and we are making some progress.”
Tim continued that the campaign had so far been well received. He said: “We’ve made quite a lot of progress through the lobbying, through the speaking to ministers, and through the evidence-based submissions that we’ve made.
“The Home Office have directed ministers to change the legislation.
“Legislation needs to change. The next reading of the private members bill is on the 16th of March. There’s a long way to go with it, but it’s so important to keep this in the public eye and keep it with the politicians and with the decision makers.
“We need to get as much support for this legislation change as possible. We urge Officers to write to their MPs and get them on board, and then tell your family and your friends to do the same. This is about a key piece of legislation to enable you to do your job.”
Jayne Willets added how important it was to ensure people got on board with campaigning for this legislation change. She said: “A lot of senior managers in policing believe that drivers are already protected. A lot of the public already believe that we’re protected, and so do the media. Some of the difficulties we’ve had trying to get this legislation to move forward is that there’s a misunderstanding that the protection is already there.
“It cannot be right that we are asking you to do a very demanding job, meeting the demands of the public, putting you through exceptional training, to be let down by the legislation.”