IOPC support for amendment to new bill

Support for an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to better protect police drivers has been voiced by a director at the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Steve Noonan from the IOPC’s directorate of major investigations, was speaking at the Federation’s virtual Roads Policing Conference during a panel session called “Steering Change for Police Drivers”.

Steve said the IOPC found itself in the unusual position of being on the same page as the Federation.

“Police officers should be able to respond to emergencies without fear that they are going to face unfair consequences,” he said.

“We remain concerned that the current draft of the legislation may only partially achieve the policy’s objective and may have some perverse results.

“We would like to reach the position where police drivers have the confidence to do the difficult job that we ask them to do which is also balanced alongside public safety.”

He stressed that they did not want to be left in a position where there was ambiguity over which cases are referred to the IOPC and that there was an opportunity within the legislation to remove that ambiguity.

Earlier in the session, Tim Rogers, national Federation lead on pursuits and driver training, thanked all partners who had made the Federation’s campaign for legislative change a reality.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, he said, made the changes required a reality but outlined that it needed to be amended to allow drivers to act instinctively.

The bill meant police drivers would no longer be judged by the standards of the careful and competent driver but by the standards of a competent police drivers who had undertaken the same level of training.

This, he pointed out, still left them at risk of prosecution since it was clearly not possible to train officers for every situation that they may come across and therefore they would inevitably act outside of their training and force policy.

“The Federation is concerned about situations in which police drivers are required to act instinctively and find themselves in a situation which might not have been the subject of policy or teaching and officers have elected to drive outside of training, and we have all done this for the right reasons, to keep the public safe, means that that driver has potentially and consciously decided to perform a manoeuvre that’s not been tested or approved so embarking untrained on an untested manoeuvre is likely of itself to fall within this new definition of careless or dangerous driving,” Tim explained, “And, without amendment, the new legislation which is intended to allow officers to assist the public in the many and varied situations that they face could either leave them either reliant once more on the goodwill of the CPS and the IOPC to avoid prosecution.”

The wording of the bill needed to be “tweaked”, said Tim, a move that had gained cross-party support.

Tim’s arguments were supported by barrister Mark Aldred who said it was hugely important that the Government got the legislation right so that police officers had the tools they needed to do their job and protect the public.

The bill is currently being considered in the House of Lords and the Federation is hoping it will be remitted back to the House of Commons for amendment.

Other speakers during the session included Terry Woods, Deputy Chief Constable at Greater Manchester Police and former driving lead on the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and Tracey Catling from the Police Powers Unit at the Home Office.

A poll of delegates revealed that 92 per cent felt the law should change to take into account the need for professionally trained police drivers to react instinctively to the incidents they are dealing with, even if these fall outside their training.

And 87 per cent felt driving outside training and policy could mean officers are automatically judged to have not been careful.

Find out more about the Roads Policing Conference.