16 March 2018
An 11th hour delay to the promised new Bill to protect emergency response drivers is a ‘bitter disappointment and further extends the threat of prosecution to our members’, says the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW).
It learned that the expected second reading of the Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Bill on Friday (16 March) – which had already received backing from all political parties – had been stalled.
Last night PFEW’s pursuits lead Tim Rogers vowed the Federation would fight on and called for the Government to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ and urgently bring forward meetings with Policing Minister Nick Hurd.
The Minister had originally supported the Bill when it was introduced in December but this week the Government called a halt to the process until an ongoing review ‘into the law and best practice regarding police pursuits’ was complete.
Mr Rogers said: “To get this disappointing news just hours away from a key legislative milestone, which had already secured cross-party support, is a bitter blow – and all the more devastating.
“What are our members and fellow emergency response drivers to do in the meantime? How many more lives could be ruined going through lengthy legal proceedings – ultimately criminalising officers for just doing their job?
“We have fought extremely hard for more than seven years to get to this point, liaising with the Home Office, National Police Chiefs’ Council, MPs from all parties and many, many other stakeholders. We finally thought the end was in sight, with a workable solution which would help protect our 120,000 plus members from prosecution for just doing their jobs, only to have it snatched from us at the last minute.
“The Government says it ‘remains broadly supportive of the intention behind the Private Members Bill’ and we know a review is ongoing.
“But this news will be a bitter blow to our specially-trained police drivers and the other emergency services who will now face an indefinite period continuing to run the risk of possibly losing their jobs if they respond to a ‘blue-light’ call.
“We will not stop campaigning for this important legislative change and we will be pushing for a meeting with the Police Minister as a matter of urgency.
“The Federation will also now have to consider its position and what advice to issue to members.”
At PFEW’s 2017 annual conference Chief Constable Anthony Bangham gave a firm commitment to working with the Federation to ensure that police drivers get the best training and agreed that pursuit drivers needed better protection after a long campaign by the Federation; Policing Minister Nick Hurd outlined a review and Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the NPCC in November: “We’re reviewing the law and practice regarding police pursuits. We want to make sure officers feel they have the legal protection they need to go after moped and scooter gangs.”
In December, Mr Hurd supported the Emergency Response Drivers (Protections) Private Members Bill in Parliament, introduced by senior backbench MP, Sir Henry Bellingham. The Bill was accepted with cross party sponsors and no dissent.
Mr Rogers said: “The Minister has agreed that we need appropriate changes to reflect driver training in law and he went further in instructing the Policing Powers section of the Home Office to make the necessary changes in further recognition of this. This makes the position we find ourselves in now all the more upsetting and baffling.”
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