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Greater protection from prosecution for police drivers chasing suspects

PUBLISHED: 19:00 12 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:03 13 May 2019

New laws would make it clear that response officers should not be held accountable for the driving of a suspect trying to avoid arrest  Picture: ARCHANT

New laws would make it clear that response officers should not be held accountable for the driving of a suspect trying to avoid arrest Picture: ARCHANT

Proposals to give police more confidence to pursue suspects have been backed in Suffolk.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced plans for a new legal test to ensure trained drivers chasing suspects are better protected from the risk of lengthy investigation and prosecution.

The Home Office found current laws did not recognise training undertaken by response drivers, or tactics used to respond to emergencies and pursue crooks.

Drivers are currently held to the standards of the public, under the discretion of the Independent Office for Police Conduct and Crown Prosecution Service.

A new legal test would compare an officer's driving to a competent and careful police driver with the same level of training, performing the same role, rather than a member of the public, making it clear response officers should not be held accountable for the driving of a suspect trying to avoid arrest, providing the pursuit is justified and proportionate.

Respondents to consultation on the proposals, which were widely backed, included the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing and Firearms Operations Unit.

Mr Javid said changes would strike the right balance between police feeling confident and protected when pursuing suspects or responding to an emergency, and sending a clear message that criminals cannot escape arrest by driving recklessly.

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Suffolk Police Federation chairman, Darren Harris welcomed the move, adding: "Our drivers, especially those pursuit-trained, are trained to the highest level.

"All pursuits are risk managed, based on the driving of the offending vehicle, and are called off only for the right reasons.

"At the end of the day, we're here to protect the public.

"It's right to have these protections.

"Under current legislation, it constitutes careless driving if an officer activates blue lights and another driver and is involved in an accident due to changing path."

Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: "Officers are highly trained and there to protect the public. Obviously, they have to be responsible, but they must also have the confidence of public support; not doubt in their mind.

"It's a good move to look at this seriously."

The government will look to review various emergency service exemptions to traffic law to ensure they remain fit for purpose.

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