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Conference 2016 | Officers advised to "seek advice before ever making a statement"


Police officers can be convicted, fined, banned and sacked for doing their duty when it comes to police pursuits, the Police Federation Conference has heard.

Officers were advised to "seek advice before ever making a statement" in a session entitled: "Witness or Suspect? Does pursuits legislation really protect police drivers?"

Leading Barrister Mark Aldred - a former police officer - said it was "much better for police to be a suspect that a witness."

He said: "Being told that you're a witness just makes the officer more vulnerable because witnesses don't have the same safeguards. "

Mr Aldred is a prominent lawyer who successfully defended PC James Holden in a high profile Dangerous Driving case in 2012. PC Holden was a Hampshire Police officer who was accused by the Crown Prosecution Service of putting innocent people at risk during a pursuit through Portsmouth. He added: "Any pursuit or any response involves risk - it's not fair to have a system that recognises that every pursuit and response creates risk and when risk materialises then straight away it's pilot error and the officer is at fault.

"Before any [police officer] is asked to make a statement, the officer belief that they haven't done anything wrong is neither here no

r there especially in a driving case. I would say seek advice before ever making a statement."

The Police Federation of England and Wales is working with the National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) to develop a draft legislation change on this issue.

The Federation is "aiming for this to be debated in Parliament in January 2017."

Tim Rogers, National Police Federation Lead on pursuits, said: "We have a duty to inform our members of the risks they face when responding to an incident or pursuing a serial recidivist. We also have a duty to act in the public interest.

"I am sure the public would expect police officers to use their skills and professionalism to respond as quickly as possible to a call for assistance; they do not expect us to be obstructed by legislation."

Mr Rogers added: "All local [Federations] will be written to in the coming weeks. We will be asking you to provide your chief officers a legal summary, an update on the campaign, and for you to ask them for their full support. They are after the employer; this is their issue as well as ours."

Anthony Bangham, NPCC lead on pursuits, admitted there was a gap in the law but added that in his view protection is only needed for advanced response drivers, but not standard response drivers.

He said it was critical the law recognises the unique responsibility of police pursuit drivers.

 

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