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Drive like you are not in a police car, Fed tells officers

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Legal protection is not sufficient to carry out any manoeuvre a member of the public cannot and government won't listen, staff association says.

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The Police Federation of England and Wales has sent a letter to forces warning drivers over the lack of protection the law gives them.

The staff association is warning they have barely any legal rights and should not carry out any manoeuvre that a non-police driver would not.

Under existing law, emergency service workers are only permitted to ignore traffic signs and speed limits and the Fed has long said these are insufficient safeguards.

The traffic sign is void if there is any element of risk to the public, and the speed limit safeguard does not stop charges of careless driving being brought.

After years of highlighting the issue to politicians to no avail, the Fed has now written to forces to point out:

"Officers have a sworn duty and must uphold that duty.

"Officers should drive in a way which is lawful and does not contravene the laws of dangerous or careless driving.

"Officers are advised not to undertake any manoeuvre which may well fall outside the standard of the careful and competent non-police driver."

It adds: “A typical response or pursuit drive is likely to involve the officer contravening traffic signs and or speed limits. A course of driving involving contravention of traffic signs and speed limits is very likely to fall within the definition of careless or dangerous driving.

“Officers are required by law to drive to the standard of the careful and competent driver. Not the careful and competent police driver, the careful and competent (non-police) driver. This is the standard police drivers will be held to.

“There are no legal exemptions from the offences of careless or dangerous driving. Any such drives are therefore likely to be unlawful, placing the driver at risk of prosecution and proceedings for gross misconduct.”

It points out its advice follows the IPCC recently directing a force to bring proceedings against an officer for gross misconduct for careless driving.

The Fed would not clarify to Police Oracle which case or force this referred to, but in April Greater Manchester Police constable Simon Folwell was the subject of a similar case.

PC Folwell was pursuing 24-year-old Luke Campbell, who died after crashing into another car.

GMP disagreed with the watchdog’s findings but it was nevertheless directed to open proceedings against the officer.

In January the Fed revealed more than 100 officers had been pursued over on duty driving matters in the preceding 18 months.

In a statement, Tim Rogers, the Police Federation of England and Wales’ (PFEW) lead on roads policing, said: “We are keen to remind our drivers that they should drive within the law.

“Legal advice has recently highlighted that police response and pursuit drives are, in most circumstances, highly likely to fall within the definitions of careless and or dangerous driving.

“The Federation has raised this matter with numerous MPs but to date the difficulties remain with our proposed draft for legislative change not yet having been progressed to a point where officers are appropriately protected.”

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