The Home Office will introduce changes to the law to recognise the high standard of training for police pursuit drivers. Such changes will make clear that officers should not be held accountable for the driving of suspects they’re chasing – as long as a pursuit is justified.
The legislation comes in response to recent controversy around police pursuits involving physically vulnerable suspects, such as those on mopeds. The distinction between criminals endangering themselves, and being put in danger by a pursuing officer, is to be more clearly defined.
In addition, there will be a review of emergency service exemptions when it comes to traffic law.
“It’s vital police officers feel confident and protected when pursuing suspects on the roads or responding to an emergency,” said Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
“It’s also crucial that we send a clear message that criminals – whether in cars or on mopeds – cannot escape arrest simply by driving recklessly.
“These proposed changes will strike the right balance, giving trained officers the confidence they need to fight crime effectively and ensure our roads are safe.”
At present, police are judged by the same standards as members of the public, despite their advanced training. Criminals have been able to take advantage by driving recklessly in pursuits, knowing that the police need to proceed with caution.
This leaves them open to misconduct investigations, lawsuits and prosecution, should ‘necessary force’ be regarded as ‘wilful harm’. Cases are currently left to the discretion of the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the Crown Prosecution Service, in order to keep them safe from unfair assessment.
“We are pleased and reassured by this announcement,” said John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales.
“It means police officers will be able to spend more time serving their communities, rather than facing lengthy court proceedings simply for doing their job.”