Gwent Police Federation has welcomed the news that representatives from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) have gathered support from the House of Lords for an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill protecting police drivers.
Members of the national Federation’s Parliamentary Sub-Committee met with Lord Bernard Hogan-Howe, Lord Willy Bach and Lord Vernon Coaker at New Scotland Yard to discuss three amendments aimed at securing vital protections for police officers.
The bill introduces a new standard to which police drivers must conform, linked to an individual driver’s training and their force policy. It follows that an officer will be licensed to drive according to what they are trained to do, but no more. Performing a manoeuvre that is not trained or is not policy is likely to fall within the new definition of careless or dangerous driving. Going beyond the terms of the licence could give rise to criminal liability and therefore the Federation is seeking an amendment to the bill.
Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe said: “This amendment is crucial in giving police drivers the confidence and protection they need to do their job effectively.
“I am glad these peers have recognised the need for this and other amendments to the upcoming bill, and hope that this meeting is a step forward in making those necessary changes a legal reality.”
Tim Rogers, national Federation lead on pursuits and driver training, added: “As part of three amendments the Federation is seeking to the bill, we want to see a reasonable defence clause added to give officers flexibility to respond legally to the matters they encounter on duty. This would take into account what they reasonably believe they are responding to and the threat that is posed. Any departure from the relevant standard should be reasonable and proportionate.
“At our meeting, the Lords agreed they are an essential aspect of making the bill fit for purpose to ensure our colleagues covering the millions of miles of our roads network to keep the public safe are given the support and protection they deserve and are not penalised for doing their jobs.
“To make the bill achieve what legislators intended, we need this amendment.”
An amendment is also being put forward that would enable officers to compel drivers to switch off their engines, a measure which could help stem the growing number of officers injured when drivers take off after a police stop. Figures show one in four roads policing officers were subjected to a vehicle being used as weapon against them during the past year.
In addition to changes that would affect police drivers, the Federation, through its Time Limits campaign, is fighting for police conduct investigations to be concluded within 12 months from the moment an allegation is made.
The Federation wants legally qualified people to be given the power to impose deadlines on investigations which have dragged on for over a year.
National Federation conduct and performance lead Phill Matthews said: “We’ve explained our rationale on why we think it is important for complainants, members of the public and our police colleagues to get complaints dealt with within a 12-month timescale or, if not, to have some legal oversight on why the investigations isn’t moving at a reasonable and fair pace. The Lords have understood that and are prepared to support that in the bill which is great news.”
The tabled amendments, which have already gained cross-party support, will now be taken forward to the committee stage and will be discussed in detail by the House of Lords.
Parliamentary Sub-Committee secretary Tiff Lynch said: “I am really grateful to those peers in the House of Lords who are showing us so much support for our amendments. We will continue pushing towards a change in legislation which will support and protect our members.”