Far too many emergency response drivers have found themselves accused of driving carelessly or dangerously when they have simply been doing their job. This will be addressed in Parliament when Sir Henry Bellingham MP puts forward a Ten-Minute Rule Bill which could lead to the introduction of an exemption for police and other emergency service workers.
These drivers currently find themselves judged by the standards of a careful and competent driver, with no recognition given to the trained standards and driver tactics to which they have been trained.
Mr Bellingham, who is Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, said: “For some time now I have been very concerned about how a number of highly professional police officers have been hounded and had their lives turned upside down as a result of unfortunate accidents involving vehicles being pursued by the police. In none of these cases was the accident in question caused by the police officers, but rather by the irresponsible driving of the driver being pursued.
“Indeed, there have been cases where the police officer behaved professionally, correctly and very much in line with their specific driver training. Nevertheless, officers have been investigated and charged, with neither the CPS nor Courts being able to take into account their far greater level of driver training and expertise.”
The Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill is not designed to enable irresponsible driving, only to apply a degree of common sense and pragmatism so that investigations can be dealt with expeditiously and officers are allowed to go back to work as quickly as possible. It is expected to receive cross-party support when it is introduced to the House by Mr Bellingham after questions and statements on Tuesday 19 December 2017.
The draft for the Bill backs the Federation’s view that the existing law is piecemeal, impractical and unworkable.
Tim Rogers, Lead on Pursuits for the Federation said: “We have made great strides forward in recent months and are grateful to Sir Henry for pursuing this in Parliament on our behalf. But whilst we hope this will gain the necessary support to safely progress through Parliament, we cannot assume this will be the case. Therefore, Federations throughout England and Wales are lobbying their local MPs to support our calls for emergency response drivers to be afforded the legal protection they deserve.
“I have witnessed police officers and their families go through unimaginable turmoil for years, through no fault of their own. The training to which they exercise their duties should be given due recognition – we must better protect those who we all rely on.”
A separate Private Members Bill by MP Chris Bryant to protect emergency service workers from assault is currently progressing through Parliament, having enjoyed cross party support.