Police chiefs are being reminded of their obligations under the new legislation brought in to offer better legal protection for police drivers.
Tim Rogers, pursuits driving lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales and secretary of West Midlands Police Federation, has written to all chief constables after discovering instances where police driver training has not been delivered by an accredited trainer, contrary to the provisions of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.
“We fought long and hard for the changes to legislation that were needed to give police drivers better protection,” says Tim, who led an eight-year campaign for a change in the law.
“It was patently wrong for police officers to find themselves the wrong side of the law or facing conduct investigations when they were doing the job they were trained to do and the job the public would expect them to do.
“The issues came because officers were judged by the standards of the careful and competent driving member of the public but clearly many of the manoeuvres police carry out when fulfilling their duties are not the norm for members of the public.
“The new legislation means that police officers’ driving will be judged by the standard of their peers, in line with their skills and training, but there are criteria attached to that – drivers have to be licensed and up to date with their training and that training has to be delivered by fully accredited trainers and this is why we have written to chief constables as a reminder.
“This new legislation, and the legal guidance that underpins it, delivers what we set out to achieve, but we need forces to play their part and ensure they are fully compliant with this new statutory framework.”
The legal guidance issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had to be updated to reflect the changes that came into effect on 30 November 2022, with the new legal test for police drivers. This test is covered through Statutory Instrument 1112 which all forces should now be complying with.
In his letter to chiefs, Tim wrote: “It is critically important that police officers do not drive if they are not licensed under this legislation. There is no movement on this whatsoever. Senior police officers, regardless of rank, cannot extend or grant an officer’s permit under any circumstances. As the chief officer of your force, you are responsible for the messaging to your officers on this critical change in legislation.
“Of particular concern are forces which choose to deliver driver training using non-accredited instructors. It is imperative that officers’ driver training is delivered by a driver trainer who has been licensed by the College of Policing. Once again, there is no leeway. Training delivered by a non-licensed person is invalid and will leave officers in a vulnerable position. Some forces have been found to have instructors employed who are not licensed.”
He adds: “It is worth stressing that licensed firearms instructors are not driver trainers; they cannot teach any driving tactics and this is simply not permitted under the legislation. This includes aspects that are currently covered in D3 and D8 of the firearms training manual. Even if tactics are within firearms training manuals, if it’s something you do as a driver it must be a driver trainer that delivers that training.”
Since the new law came into effect, a Subject Matter Experts (SME) group has been established to give expert evidence to decision makers based on the new legislated driving standard.
This group is achieving good levels of consistency with reasonable accessibility; it provides equality of arms for both prosecution and defence teams. This group is referenced in the DPP’s guidance and must be used by all bodies responsible for investigating relevant matters. They are the only resource with the ability to accurately assess the most up to date standards.
For local driving matters requiring assessment against the new standard, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) is mandating a model for all forces to follow, and this is expected to be implemented soon. Driving standards units are key to assessing what was once a breach of policy but which is now a breach of the law.
In the meantime, the Police Federation of England and Wales is urging all officers to make sure they are fully aware of the new legislation and the regulations that underpin that law. But, above all, it is stressing how crucial it is that they don’t drive if they are not licensed under Statutory Instrument 1112. Forces also have a responsibility to ensure this is the case.
Tim added: “This is a generational change for policing; one that improves confidence for both officers and the public. To ensure this legislative change achieves its policy objectives, it needs chief constables’ full support.”