RULES governing police pursuits are to be overhauled after warnings they could be undermining efforts to tackle criminals on mopeds and motorcycles.
It follows concerns from rank-and-file leaders that officers in high-speed chases could find themselves prosecuted for dangerous or careless driving in the same way as other motorists.
Under plans published today, laws surrounding the offences would be changed to recognise police drivers’ high level of training. This would also apply to ‘hard stops’, where trained drivers are required to make contact with a suspect vehicle.
The shake-up also aims to smash the ‘myth’ that officers cannot chase suspects who are not wearing helmets. The government will make it clear that a suspect is responsible for their own decision to drive dangerously — and blame should not be attached to the pursuing officer.
Policing minister Nick Hurd said: ‘People must be able to go about their daily lives without fear of harassment or attack and criminals must not think they can get away with a crime by riding or driving in a certain way or on a certain type of vehicle.
‘Our proposed changes will make sure that skilled police drivers who follow their rigorous training are protected, while ensuring the minority of officers who do cross the line are robustly held to account.’ A review was launched in September after a rise in offences by moped and scooter gangs.
All emergency services are exempt from speed limit, traffic light and sign violations when answering a 999 call but face the same legal test for careless or dangerous driving as the public. The Police Federation of England and Wales, which has been calling for reform, cautiously welcomed the plan.
It said ministers ‘must act quickly to prevent more officers suffering unnecessary and often mendacious prosecutions’. There were about 10,000 pursuits in England and Wales in 2016/17.