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Change law for emergency service cars, says North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham

Views of the Palace of Westminster - the Houses of Parliament.
Views of the Palace of Westminster - the Houses of Parliament.

A West Norfolk MP is calling for a change in law to stop emergency service drivers being prosecuted.

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham spoke in Parliament this week to bring an exception of unnecessary prosecutions to police and emergency service drivers.

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham
North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham

During his Private Member’s Bill, Sir Henry said: “As things stand at the moment, emergency response drivers including the police, ambulance and fire service drivers and security service drivers are exempted from prosecution for either excess speed or going through red lights, but can be prosecuted for dangerous or careless driving.

“Worse still, when it comes to decisions on prosecutions or disciplinary action they are judged by the universal standard of the competent and careful driver test, and not the competent and careful fully trained emergency driver test.”

Sir Henry said his Bill would bring in a “very simple change to the law” whereby the professionalism and driver skills training of these emergency drivers would be a material factor.

He gave a number of examples from up and down the country, including one involving a Norfolk police officer who pursued a vehicle with no lights that was driving erratically.

“This officer followed his training to the letter and very carefully kept a reasonable distance and did not pressurise the driver in front. Tragically the driver in front went off the road and was killed,” said Sir Henry.

“The vehicle was defective in a number of ways and the driver was four times over the limit. Because the police officer’s training and expertise could not be taken into consideration he was suspended and investigated both by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Independent Police Complaints Commissioner (IPCC) for nearly two years.

“He was suspended during this period, and as well as he and his family suffering appalling stress, Norfolk Constabulary lost the services of a very experienced officer.

“He was ultimately exonerated as there was no case to answer but if my new law was on the statute book, then this case would have taken two weeks rather than two years.”

Sir Henry also spoke of number of other cases including those involving moped riders who often deliberately remove their helmet in the hope this will prevent the police from giving pursuit after a crime has been committed.

Tim Rogers of the National Police Federation said: “This change in the law is now long overdue because too many of our members are being hung out to dry when all they were doing was acting professionally, following their training and protecting the public.

“We saw Sir Henry’s speech and particularly noted the strong support from colleagues across the House and the encouraging nods from the Policing Minister, Nick Hurd who stayed in the chamber to hear Sir Henry’s speech.”

Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green said: “I generally support Sir Henry Bellingham’s Bill.

“We must remain mindful that emergency services are called upon very quickly and have been through high training.

“Although if something were to happen and there was an incident, I believe the correct investigation should be undertaken to satisfy all those involved.” Sir Henry’s Bill will have its second reading on March 16 next year.

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