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Suffolk’s police union urges Government to change law for officers on emergencies

PUBLISHED: 10:30 21 July 2017

Police federation wants law change to protect officers. Picture: Archant library.

Police federation wants law change to protect officers. Picture: Archant library.

Archant

Suffolk’s police federation is urging the Government to change the law to protect officers responding to 999 calls, or those involved in pursuits, from potential prosecutions.

Currently police could end up in court while carrying out their duty to protect the public should an accident occur.

The county’s police federation secretary Mark Emsden said: “Within the law there are certain exemptions that allow police officers to contravene laws that other citizens have to abide by.

“However, the moment a police officer does that they are then subject to the standards that are applied to a careless driving which do not allow for such exemptions to exist.”

The police union cited instances where officers with their sirens and lights on could legally break speed limits or have to go through a red light in the course of their duty.

However, a course of driving contravening traffic signs and speed limits is likely to fall within the definition of careless, or even dangerous, driving.

This means if there is an accident officers could face a prosecution like any other motorist breaking the law.

The issue has been highlighted by cases elsewhere in the country where emergency service personnel have ended up in court.

Mr Emsden said: “We are calling on the Government to make changes to legislation to protect drivers while on emergency calls. At present officers are in a Catch 22 position. Officers receive extensive training in how to drive safely while on emergencies.

“While we fully support officers on emergency calls to protect the public, what we don’t want to do is to find police officers are unduly prosecuted because they fall below the standards of a non-trained civilian driver.”

The Police Federation of England and Wales has raised the issue with a number of MPs and Nick Hurd, the new minister for policing.

However, the officers’ union is concerned changes are yet to be made leaving members in a potentially precarious situation.

Police in Suffolk have been sent letters to remind them they must uphold their sworn duty.

However, the federation has said they should drive in a lawful way and should not undertake any manoeuvre which falls outside the standards of a careful and competent civilian driver.

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