I thought long and hard before writing to you. I am a keen biker myself and a Police Class 1 Advanced Driver.
I was on duty when I was made aware of a gang of scooter thieves who had been robbing people in the town centre. I managed to get behind one of the scooters and after a short pursuit I knocked him off his scooter.
Both the rider and the pillion passenger were arrested, and phones as well as a load of cash were recovered. The two lads were well-known to the police.
After being checked over at hospital they were given the all-clear; no injuries other than bruising. I was driving a marked police vehicle and got a pat on the back from my skipper for a job well done.
I have now been told I am being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). I’ve been told that the IOPC may refer my driving to the CPS for a decision on prosecuting me for dangerous driving.
I am absolutely bricking it. I love my job and have 10 years to go before retirement and collecting my pension. I am also a police biker. I don’t want to lose my job or my licence, please help!
I am going to talk about the law in general terms as your case is ongoing.
To begin with, there is no difference between the standard of driving between a police driver and a member of the public. That may surprise some readers, but the same test is applied to all road users. That is an objective test. If your driving, or riding, falls below the standard of a careful and competent road user, you are guilty of careless driving. If your driving falls far below the standard of a careful and competent road user, you are guilty of dangerous driving. That is it in a nutshell.
There is no second test for police drivers, or those with special skills. So, if Lewis Hamilton got behind the wheel, or Valentino Rossi rode his motorcycle like a nutter on the public roads, they would both be facing the same punishment as you or I, had we done the same.
There are some exemptions written into law, such as the ability to contravene the speed limit and road signs/markings. However, that is not relevant to your case as the issue appears to be the contact between your police car and the scrote’s scooter – that is to say, the dangerous manner of your driving.
The Government has tried, since 2018, to change the law. It hasn’t moved forward much since that date: I suppose Brexit got in the way, but the idea was to modify the legal test so it may take into account any special skills the rider/driver has. In your case, this will be your extensive police training and ability to carry out TPAC (tactical pursuit and containment) tactics.
The lead case law on this area dates back to 2009, in a case called R V. Bannister. In that, a police driver drove at 120mph, aquaplaned, and crashed his police car. He was charged and convicted of dangerous driving which was later changed to careless driving but the court could not take into account his specialist skill of driving at such extreme speeds. He served a prison term, which highlights the seriousness of an allegation of dangerous driving.
It appears that the only safeguard in your case is the CPS choosing not to prosecute you. A 2012 direction from the Director of Public Prosecutions read: “In the course of their duties, police officers… may need to drive a vehicle in response to an emergency in a manner which would otherwise be considered unacceptable. Our starting point is that it is very unlikely to be appropriate to proceed with a prosecution on public interest grounds if a police officer… commits a driving offence while responding to an emergency call.”
This has been widely criticised, as a long list of prosecutions against police drivers have clogged the court system since 2012, so I wouldn’t count on any CPS decision to not prosecute you. They take a dispassionate view of the evidence and prosecute on the evidence before them, notwithstanding the 2012 direction from the DPP. it is a flimsy safeguard.
I would lawyer up if I were you. While you haven’t yet been charged, there is nothing wrong in front-loading this situation and getting a legal team on stand-by. You have too much to lose and the Government has not yet moved along with its promise to revamp the law.
We may see that in the coming years, but criminals will still try and game the system by using scooters or motorcycles to commit crime. The ‘thin blue line’ will do its best to combat this but be aware that the law applies in the same way to us all.
Fast Bikes March 2022