Cleveland Police Federation
Cleveland Police Federation

MPs asked to support police drivers Cleveland MPs are being encouraged to support a bill which could lead to better legal protection for police response drivers.

The second reading of the Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill is due to take place in the House of Commons on 16 March and Cleveland Police Federation chair Andrea Breeze is calling on county MPs to support its passage through Parliament.

"The current legislation means police officers and other emergency service response drivers are vulnerable to prosecution for dangerous driving since there are no exemptions to take into account the specialised training they have undertaken," says Andrea.

"Because of this, they are judged against the standards of a non-trained, 'competent and careful driver'. Since dangerous driving includes speeding, ignoring traffic signals and other manoeuvres carried out by emergency response drivers, police officers have been prosecuted simply for doing their job, serving the public.

"Clearly, we need to see a change in the law so that officers can go about their duties, respond to calls for help and protect their communities without fear of prosecution. I hope that our county MPs will support this bill so it can make its way through Parliament."

The Police Federation's pursuits lead, Tim Rogers, has led the campaign for a change in the law.

He explains: "PC James Holden, a patrol officer from Hampshire, was charged with dangerous driving after pursuing a stolen van. The charges were brought by the Crown Prosecution Service and following review by Hampshire Constabulary despite there being no complaints made about the officer's driving, and no members of the public injured. A jury cleared PC Holden within two hours and the local Federation said the officer had been through '12 months of hell'.

"In another example, Merseyside officer PC James Ellerton positioned his unmarked car in the path of a man riding a scrambler bike recklessly to prevent him from heading back into Liverpool town centre, where he posed a risk to the public.

"The rider was knocked off at low speed and arrested. PC Ellerton was charged with dangerous driving and threatened with five years in prison - thankfully he was exonerated by a court, but the incident caused untold stress to the officer and his family."

The Federation is seeking legislative change that reflects the high standard to which police officers are trained to be taken into consideration.

It has won the support of senior backbench MP Sir Henry Bellingham who introduced his Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Ten-Minute Rule Bill in Parliament on 19 December 2017.

The bill was accepted with cross party sponsors and no dissent. The next stage is the second reading on 16 March.

The Federation wants officers to contact their local MPs to ask them to support the bill.

Tim added: "The bill is categorically not a charter for blue light drivers to act irresponsibly. We would never endorse that. We only seek to protect our officers and other blue light responders who are following their training and exercising their professional judgment.

"They already do a difficult job under stressful circumstances and they deserve our support and that of the law. There is still a way to go in this process but I am optimistic that, after eight years of watching officers falling foul of the law just for doing their jobs, we can finally have legislation that supports them in the vital job they do."

Tim's blog on pursuits