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UKPO NEWS:Police Officer's Could Face Dangerous Driving Charges


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#1 Black Rat

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 05:05 PM

Dangerous driving legal risks could ruin lives and careersPosted Image


OFFICERS should be wary of risking ‘their lives and careers’ until they get better legal protection for ‘dangerous driving’ on police pursuits, West Yorkshire Police Federation said this week.

There is no special consideration in current law for police officers in emergency situations – and their driving will be judged on the same standards as any ordinary motorist should a prosecution be brought.

Chief officers and Police Federation of England and Wales officials are pressing for an amendment to the law around dangerous driving to reflect the position of officers conducting pursuits.

Phil Abbiss, West Yorkshire Police Federation lead on health and safety, said this week: ‘Our advice to officers is clear in that they should always perform their role within the constraints of the law and Police Regulations.

‘Until the Government provide actual protection for officers who are prepared to put themselves in harm’s way to protect the communities they serve and not leave them to fend entirely for themselves, officers should not risk their lives and careers.’

Currently driving at speed, on the wrong side of the road and running through red traffic signals could all amount to dangerous driving, even if drivers are acting to protect the public and have advanced driving qualifications.

The concerns over police pursuits were highlighted after Hampshire Constabulary roads policing officer PC James Holden was prosecuted following a pursuit through Portsmouth.

The officer had been following a stolen van but immediately stood down when the offender crashed the vehicle through a closed level crossing barrier.
Although there had been no external complaint made against the officer the case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service following an internal review of the pursuit.

PC Holden was charged with dangerous driving. It took the acquittal of PC Holden by a jury for his reputation to be cleared.

John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, said that all police drivers would have been advised not to pursue had the officer been found guilty.
Barrister Mark Aldred, who represented the officer, said: ‘It is virtually impossible to conduct a pursuit without running a high risk of contravening the law as it currently stands.

‘There are no legal exemptions – it makes no difference that police drivers are highly skilled.’

According to www.policeoracle.com Andy Holt, the ACPO Lead on Pursuits, agreed that there was a problem and said it could only be solved through an amendment to legislation.

He added that the association had agreed a ‘sticking plaster’ approach in the meantime through the issuing of improved guidance to forces – the chief officer said that the public would be put at risk if officers were not able to pursue.

Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: ‘A number of concerns have been raised with me about the case of PC Holden. I do not propose to comment on the case itself, but I have decided that CPS policy guidance in relation to dangerous driving should be reviewed, including the way in which it is applied to members of the emergency services.’

He added: ‘The CPS will consult with the police before finalising the revised policy guidance.’

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#2 SWAT

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 08:54 PM

Sort out the markup :)

#3 SimonT

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:04 PM

Our new idiotic policy of grading all dv jobs as emergency response, even if the person reporting is alone is certainly getting people to exercise their caution and confidence in saying they won't go on blues.

I gauge every job and if I'm risking prosecution it had better be worth it.

#4 Traffic Rat

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:09 PM

Simple solution is to have an Emergency Service Drivers Licence - This could be used by ANYONE who uses exemptions or responds including Fire, Police, Amb, Coastguard, Bomb Disposal, Mountain rescue, Caves rescue etc,etc

Can be administered by DVLA the same way LGV Tacho cards are linked to your main Driver Record.

Conviction at Court and you lose your Emer licence, not your Normal Licence

Edited by Traffic Rat, 10 November 2012 - 09:10 PM.


#5 nigeltm

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:16 PM

Just to point out that only Police, Ambo and Fire get exemptions. Mountain Rescue, Coast Guard and the rest don't. As far as I know the legislation should allow us to but ACPO don't interperate it the same so we don't.

I think there may be limited exemptions under the Section 19 amendments when they come in. We'll see.

#6 Sectioned Detection

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 10:31 PM

I don't drive on blues and twos anymore and won't till this issue is resolved. A bit like the issue with bail a while back, its a pain in the ass and a huge problem that at the moment is being brushed over. Well I'm not breaking the law and risk my livelyhood.

#7 morek54

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 10:28 AM

We've become a bit bogged down on this specific issue but I guess it's a start. I don't mean that negatively but in the context of the fact we are focused too closely on the risks associated to driving when in fact a good deal of what we do can leave us falling foul of the law. Whether it's driving fast in an emergency, going hands-on with some drunken yob or making simple split-second decisions, we are all very vulnerable to prosecution arising from a wide range of Police duties. Not just driving. I'd like to see those who represent us and those who purport to represent us [ACPO] calling for greater protection in law for Police Officers in a much wider range of scenarios we might find ourselves confronted with.

Just as we expect Police Officers to drive quickly to us in an emergency or to robustly deal with rioting yobs, both situations can potentially leave individual Officers facing prosecution if things go wrong or in the face of any adverse criticism or complaint. In my mind, there isn't a great deal of difference - although, personally I've seen more of my colleagues facing potential prosecution for use of force as opposed to dangerous driving.

Of course, I'm not suggestion Police Officers should be above the law. Far from it. I'm suggesting that Police Officers, by virtue of what society expects of them, are continually placed in situations where they have to make difficult, split second decisions. Should a riot cop for instance who has to resort to using his/her baton to maintain order be judged by the same standards as a normal member of the public who would never, ever have to make such a decision or take such decisive action? Yet, in essence, when you strip the argument being made here in respect of driving it applies equally to other areas of Policing as well.

So rather than suggesting Police Officers should be above the law, I'm suggesting that we should have greater support in law with due consideration paid to the difficult positions we are placed in. There is definitely a huge gulf between outright criminal behaviour - and actions of a Police Officer, who's actions are deemed criminal by virtue of the fact he or she might be considered to have acted incorrectly or over-reacted in the cold-light of day or with the wonderful benefit of hindsight. There are definitely been a shift in recent times though whereby there has been undue emphasis on prosecution of Police Officers in respect of actions they have taken on-duty, not necessarily in the interests of justice but rather because the system likes to demonstrate to the wider public that they will pursue Police Officers like any other member of the public for alleged wrong-doing. Often though, where Police Officers are concerned, we're not talking about someone who has gone out and become violent after getting drunk and off their head on drugs. We talking about the public servant, who has to confront that very same individuals appalling behaviour, sometimes firmly and robustly.

So the point I make here is that greater consideration is needed across the board by CPS in respect of a variety of Police activities - not just driving, which is but just one of the many areas of potential litigation facing Police Officers on-duty. Not least in this climate we currently operate in.

#8 SimonT

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 11:16 AM

I do take your point, we do get it in the neck from all angles, all the while trying our best to do our job, which the people sticking it to us have asked us to do.

I think the reason that the driving issue is so high on peoples concerns is that a simple blues run to any job, but virtue of the law as it stands is dangerous driving. No need for a collision or even a pursuit at all. You are speeding, running red lights, getting vehicles to move out your way and crossing to the other side of the road. All of these being done by a MOP would land them under arrest.

However as the officers skills and job cant be taken into account and must be judged from the point of view of a normal MOP then you are a dangerous driver and thats that. Its only the management and CPS decision not to try and get you convicted that stops it happening. I for one am not interested in hoping they wont want to.

#9 blueb

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 10:20 PM

Simple solution is to have an Emergency Service Drivers Licence - This could be used by ANYONE who uses exemptions or responds including Fire, Police, Amb, Coastguard, Bomb Disposal, Mountain rescue, Caves rescue etc,etc
Can be administered by DVLA the same way LGV Tacho cards are linked to your main Driver Record.
Conviction at Court and you lose your Emer licence, not your Normal Licence

Not a good example, an LGV licence is only a vocational matter, poor driving, mobile phone etc still results in points on their DVLA licence and then if it is related to their vocational driving it may also impact on that as well. For the police, it could be they would be hit on both types of licence puting them at double the jeopardy ... in the same way that the LGV/PCV driver may go to court and then stand before the traffic commissioner. In the cold analysis of a large percentage of polaccs, they are avoidable and saying they were going to a graded call is no different in terms of being put under pressure than other drivers going about their jobs. We know if we are late for an appointment we tend to try and push the boundaries, and if nothing happens we feel good, and if things go wrong, the resulting hassle far exceeds the original appointment/job/task/meeting. Positive management can go a long way to resolving the pressure that the officers are put under, and that applies from sergeant upwards, after all that is what they are meant to be good at!

#10 morek54

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 10:00 AM

I'm not one to normally defend CPS - and I don't intend to here. That said, this situation is not all their fault. Yes, they make the decision whether to prosecute or not - but if you were to look at the Pc HOLDEN case, which prompted these calls for Police drivers to be afforded greater protection, I think it's Hampshire Police who should be hanging their heads in shame.

My knowledge of this case is only based upon what I have read. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong though, but Pc HOLDEN was pursuing a vehicle being driven by a burglary suspect who'd failed to stop for Police. The suspect was apprehended. There was no complaint and no-one was injured. But as per Hampshire's force policy, the facts of the pursuit were examined and someone in an office (presumably) decided that Pc HOLDEN should have terminated the pursuit moments earlier and therefore his conduct was referred in due course to CPS, who later decided he should be prosecuted. I can only assume then that it was Hampshire Police who mounted this prosecution to start with.

But the facts, certainly as reported, beggar the question WHY?

The Police as an entity makes this job just as hard for it's troops as any other agency who is asked to adjudicate on what we do. I can well understand the Police Federation's position here - but ACPO and The Superintendent's Association, who have added their voice to the Federation's cause, are nothing but hypocrites. It is the decision making at their level, which has instigated policies and review practices which leads to undue referral of such incidents to the CPS in the first place.

Those who populate the senior ranks of modern-Police service by and large suffer from acute sloppy-shoulder syndrome. They seem completely incapable of demonstrating strong leadership by supporting those of us at the sharp-end so to speak - and whenever there is so much as a whiff of adverse criticism or something goes wrong, they simply refer things up to the next level to avoid any sort of accusations being directed at them of a cover-up. Or that's how they see it. The path of least resistance. Always. This is the reason why, often, matters are referred to CPS which in reality ought to have best been dealt with internally if at all. The buck so to speak for making that final difficult decision is continually passed along the chain. But even when it ends up with CPS, they are equally blessed with staggering levels of indecisiveness - and often where Police Officers are concerned (or so it certainly seems), rather than make the difficult decision not to prosecute, they opt to leave it to a court to decide instead.

I accept I generalise a bit here. Some cases are and should be referred to CPS, I accept that. But overall, I think the problem here has more to do with certain attitudes and a prevailing culture within the Police these days than it has to do with CPS per se or indeed the law itself as it currently stands. CPS merely compound the problems, which lie elsewhere.

#11 gripper

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 11:19 AM

As far as I'm aware, it's the CPS who made the decision to charge.
Not Hampshire Police.

#12 morek54

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 11:40 AM

As far as I'm aware, it's the CPS who made the decision to charge.
Not Hampshire Police.


Of course - but who passed it to CPS? That's the point I'm making. Someone within Hampshire Police must have put a case together and submitted it to CPS for consideration to prosecute those involved, whether because of force policy or perhaps because of a reluctance to make a decision themselves. But when all is said and done, there was no accident. No injury. By all accounts. And the suspect was detained. The whole case, as I understand it, was based on the Officer's decision not to terminate the pursuit when the factors involved were considered retrospectively and with the benefit of hindsight no doubt. This was identified through an internal review, rather than external pressures. I think if you look back at this story, the force's Federation were as equally critical of decisions made by the force in relation to this matter as they are now CPS. Hampshire Police, not just CPS, were heavily involved in the prosecution of their Officer in that they brought the case before CPS in the first place. It's then a lottery. I stand to be corrected of course.

Edited by morek54, 13 November 2012 - 11:41 AM.


#13 Black Rat

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 01:22 PM

Font styles edited and fixed.

#14 blueb

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:05 PM

Of course - but who passed it to CPS? That's the point I'm making. Someone within Hampshire Police must have put a case together and submitted it to CPS for consideration to prosecute those involved, whether because of force policy or perhaps because of a reluctance to make a decision themselves. But when all is said and done, there was no accident. No injury. By all accounts. And the suspect was detained. The whole case, as I understand it, was based on the Officer's decision not to terminate the pursuit when the factors involved were considered retrospectively and with the benefit of hindsight no doubt. This was identified through an internal review, rather than external pressures. I think if you look back at this story, the force's Federation were as equally critical of decisions made by the force in relation to this matter as they are now CPS. Hampshire Police, not just CPS, were heavily involved in the prosecution of their Officer in that they brought the case before CPS in the first place. It's then a lottery. I stand to be corrected of course.

Looking at what happened in hindsight is what happens for EV|ERY incident, and a driver whether police or otherwise is aware of that. Most forces already have an internal points or evaluation system inplace to deal with minor knocks bumps through to more serious allegations, the former effectively being like a 'work' driving licence and the latter affecting their normal licence. we know that misuse of a baton can equate to an assault , no one has ever thought it right to have a parrallel'card or licence' that would allow an officer to commit assault and not have their liberty at risk, wouldit really beright to be allowed to commit driving offences which only affect the 'work licence' and never the DVLA one? Surely some offences must warrant a court case, and if so, we are back tocthe current situation.
If the OP management made an erroneous decision then perhaps that is something the newly elected PCC can look into tomorrow.

#15 SimonT

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:25 PM

From what i understand of the case it was std practice a review of pursuits in the force in question and this was done by a special group who did so. The officer, PC Holden was found to have driven dangerously and indeed so was his crew partner.

This information was fed to the CPS and the driver went to court for dangerous driving and the prosecution of the passenger dropped.

I believe part of the charge was in relation to not only the police officers driving but that of he suspect vehicle. The reasoning for this being that the police officer pursuing the suspect was causing the dangerous driving of the suspect vehicle and therefore was culpable in this fact as well.
Likewise if the vehicle crashed it would be the responsibility of the police driver, not the driver who crashed. Again likewise of someone was killed (even the criminal driver) it would be the officers fault.

The deck is stacked against the police officer, being asked to do what he is doing by the people who are also going to prosecute him and try and get him in prison for doing what they are asking.

The most unpleasant thing is that having watched the footage a number i times i cant see anything wrong in the manner of driving. It was as i was trained. That is the problem. In driving as taught and as required the officer, doing the right thing in the right way is still breaking the law and guilty by his own honest admission that he did his duty.
He was found not guilty in 1hour and ten minutes. After waiting 12 months to get there.
Not to pt too fine a point on it, sod pursuit driving and knock 20mph off any response run.

http://www.portsmout...mouth-1-3474870 - This is the footage of the driving

#16 gripper

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:59 PM

One problem I have found, is now that I am much slower, the gaps I would have taken, have now gone.
Making progress somewhat more anxious.

#17 meditate

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:56 PM

So at the moment you will get screwed on a pursuit and in future if you also injure yourself long term on a foot chase. With regards PC Holden I would agree with More54 in that Hampshire police must have passed the case to CPS. If I was in Hampshire Constabulary I would have no faith in the organisation supporting me in the future. Traffic Rats suggestion of an emergency license is a good one so long as it is not a get out of jail free card for a serious error of judgement that resulted in injury or death to a MOP or colleague. I would also take section Detections line of avoiding putting yourself in the firing line - at the moment why would you give the organisation any ammunition to get rid of you when the guidance is vague at best and the support is not there? Inaction by rank and file on pursuits would lead to some serious soul searching further up the chain and elsewhere. Just my two cents worth.

#18 Anna32

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 11:17 PM

Inaction by rank and file on pursuits would lead to some serious soul searching further up the chain and elsewhere.


Sadly, the soul searching could easily just lead to more disciplinary action for the rank and file. They could very, very easily be disciplined or prosecuted for fast/ 'dangerous' driving and for 'not responding fast enough or trying hard enough'. It's an impossible situation, but they're expected to make it work anyway.

#19 SimonT

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:59 PM

Just thought i would raise this one again. To the best of my knowledge nothing has actually changed and we are still just as at risk as we have always been. 



#20 znra251

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:15 PM

Nothing has changed, my 8 weeks of driving training count for nothing and at any point if someone wanted to I would be in front of the magistrates trying to explain how travelling in excess of the speed limit on the wrong side of the road is not below the standard of a competent and careful driver.

 

Every day according to the letter of the law as it currently stands thousands of police officers are guilty of at least careless driving!

 

Luckily so far my force has shown little desire to start prosecuting us for doing exactly what we were taught but who knows about the future.






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