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Protection for police chase officers welcomed

By Dominic Robertson | Crime | Published:

Greater legal protection for police officers involved in car chases has been welcomed by the area's police and crime commissioner.

The government is planning to change the law so that the training given to officers involved in high-speed pursuits is taken into account.

Under the current law, the same legal test for careless and dangerous driving offences is applied to police officers and the general public.

Police have raised concerns that officers have to rely on prosecutors' discretion to avoid criminal charges, and face lengthy watchdog investigations and suspension from duty, only to be cleared eventually.

John Campion, West Mercia's police and crime commissioner, John Campion, said the changes will offer greater protection to police pursuit drivers.

He said: “I believe strongly in giving our police the tools to do their jobs more effectively and this is an example of that. The government has listened to our police and come up with a common sense solution that will benefit all parties.

“Police pursuit drivers are highly trained and exceptionally skilled. I hope this change will give officers the confidence to do their jobs even more effectively. I also hope it shows how much we all value their work to keep us safe, which I have worked to highlight through my #BehindTheBadge campaign.”

Announcing the changes policing minister Nick Hurd said: "People must be able to go about their daily lives without fear of harassment or attack and criminals must not think they can get away with a crime by riding or driving in a certain way or on a certain type of vehicle.

"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."

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The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) cautiously welcomed the announcement – pointing out that it had been calling for reforms for years.

Ministers launched a review of the legislation, guidance and practice surrounding police pursuits in September.

The issue came under the spotlight after a rise in the number of reported offences perpetrated by criminals on mopeds and scooters, particularly in urban centres.

All emergency services, including police, are exempt from speed limit, traffic light and sign violations when undertaking a 999 response.

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But concerns remain over the fact they currently face the same legal test for careless and dangerous driving as the public.

Under the Government's proposals, police drivers would be subject to a separate test when determining whether they should face action after incidents.

It would require an officer to drive "to the standard of a careful and competent police driver of a similar level of training and skill", using appropriately authorised driving tactics that are necessary and proportionate to the circumstances.

A consultation document detailing the plans says: "This standard would allow investigators, prosecutors and the courts to take account of the driver's level of training and skill, not only to make allowance for driving beyond that expected from the public but also if manoeuvres or tactics are employed that the driver is not trained or authorised to carry out."

Instances in which the test could be applied include "hard stops", where trained drivers are required to make contact with a suspect vehicle.

Officials are also seeking views on whether the changes should cover police response driving, such as when officers are called to a terrorist incident, as well as pursuits.

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