Greater clarity still needed on legal position of officers involved in roads policing operations.
Concerned Fed officials have called for further clarification over how police drivers involved in pursuits stand within the law amid new draft guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service.
Alan Jones, Chair of the staff associationâ€™s Roads Policing Group, said a new CPS consultation document had done little to reassure officers involved in emergency response work â€“ and insisted further improvements were needed.
Both ACPO and the Fed have been worried about the status of those carrying out pursuits after it emerged that there is no special consideration in law for those in the emergency services â€“ and that standards of driving will be judged in the same way as any other road users despite their unique training and role.
This means that driving at speed, on the wrong side of the road and running through red traffic signals could all amount to dangerous driving, even if drivers are acting to protect the public and have advanced driving qualifications.
As previously reported, concerns were raised earlier in the year after Hampshire Constabulary PC James Holden was prosecuted following a pursuit through Portsmouth.
The officer had been following a stolen van but immediately stood down when the offender crashed the vehicle through a closed level crossing barrier.
Although there had been no external complaint made against the officer, the case was referred to the CPS following a force internal review â€“ and placed before the courts.
PC Holden was charged with dangerous driving while his radio operator faced an allegation of aiding and abetting him. Her charge was later dropped, but it took the acquittal of PC Holden by a jury for his reputation to be restored.
Despite raising his concerns to Director of Public Prosecutions, however, Mr Jones said that the latest guidance did not adequately address the current vagueness in law.
The Consultation on the Draft Guidance on Charging Offences Arising from Driving Incidents paper makes it clear that a case against a driver responding to an emergency call is â€œhighly unlikelyâ€ to proceed to court on public interest grounds unless â€œthe driving is dangerous or there is a high degree of culpabilityâ€.
But it adds that a case involving a police officer in 2009 â€“ R v Bannister â€“had already established that the special skills of an individual driver could not be taken into account when assessing whether driving standards were dangerous.
Speaking at the Fedâ€™s Leatherhead HQ Mr Jones said: â€œWe need a greater understanding of the issues here â€“ while we welcome this document it still falls short of what we require.
â€œWhat we have still leaves our people exposed to individual interpretation of the law. In due course we will be putting a full and robust response back to the CPS.
â€œThis is an issue that not only affects the police, but the wider emergency services.â€
Mr Jones was adamant that unless â€œcommon sense prevailedâ€ police drivers were likely to become more reluctant to do their job for fear of being prosecuted.
He added: â€œWhat we are asking for is not an exemption for dangerous driving but an understanding that the legal system will account for the skills and training officers have.â€
Pursuits: Draft CPS Guidance ‘Unhelpful’