This may seem unfair but if the court lowered the standard for a learner it may send ripples across the legal spectrum. Imagine an argument that a junior doctor owes a lower duty of care than an experienced practitioner. This was what the court was worried about. This judgment was given in 1971.

Fast forward to 2017 and a spate of crimes in London perpetrated by thieves on scooters. They would ride up pavements and steal phones out of the hands of unsuspecting victims. They’d also rob jewellery stores and escape on two wheels. This type of crime spread out of London to other large cities. The answer initially came from the Metropolitan Police… ram them off their bikes.

This always interested me because I knew there wasn’t a legal defence for driving in such a manner. Those officers who committed such ‘Tactical Contact’ gambled their lives, freedom and career on the fact the CPS wouldn’t prosecute. It was a thin line.

Crashed at 120mph

In the case of R v Bannister a highly trained police officer crashed his police car after travelling at 120mph on a wet motorway. The Court found such driving dangerous. He was convicted and imprisoned. The police officer argued he was a highly trained roads policing officer and could travel at speed safely. The Court disagreed as the legal test remained the same for us all, it does not matter if you are a police officer and driving a police car.

Therein lies the risk for police officers ramming scooter thieves. Their driving, according to the law, fell below the standard of a careful and competent driver and they were committing criminal offences.

Then things changed

Then, in 2022 the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act was given royal assent. It became law. This act is important as it changed the legal test to be applied for a police officer driving in such a manner; generally, as long as they were driving in accordance with their training, the legal test is no longer that of a careful and competent driver but rather a competent and careful constable. Watch this space as we may see cases being tested before the Court in the coming years.

Don’t expect this to change the outcome of cases like PC Nadeem Patel, a police officer who drove at 83mph in a 30mph limit, without front blue lights activated and then collided with a pedestrian, Shante Daniel-Folkes. She died at the scene and PC Patel was charged with causing death by dangerous driving.

I don’t think the new law change will result in such cases being withdrawn, but there will be analysis of what training is given to police officers when things go wrong on our roads.

Gavin Grewal

Bike Magazine November 2023