End of the road for police pursuits?

Roads policing officer James Holden was recently cleared of dangerous driving while following a suspect, but the case could have a massive impact on police drivers being held responsible for the actions of those they are pursuing. Barrister Mark Aldred, who defended the officer, writes:

The recent case of R v Holden heralds a new and disturbing approach to police pursuits by the Crown Prosecution Service. PC Holden was attached to Hampshire Constabulary’s roads policing unit and trained to the highest levels in pursuit driving. The pursuit that he and a colleague were involved in lasted about four minutes and ended when the driver they were pursuing crashed into a level crossing barrier and ran off.

PC Holden stopped the pursuit and no one was injured. Neither the suspect’s vehicle or the police vehicle had an accident with any third party. There was no public complaint. PC Holden was pursuing a serial burglar. An independent review of the driver by another force expert described PC Holden’s driving as “admirable” and “not careless, reckless or dangerous” and “typical of an urban pursuit”. However, the in-force review panel felt, in retrospect, the risk was too great and the pursuit ought to have been terminated some one minute 30 seconds earlier.

PC Holden was then prosecuted for dangerous driving before being cleared by a jury in February this year.

A central plank of the case against him was that he had a responsibility to ‘discontinue’ when the risks became disproportionate, and he had not done so. The prosecution case against PC Holden was largely based upon the danger created by the subject driver. In the words of the prosecutor: “If you continue to pursue you continue to expose the public to risk of serious injury and serious damage to property. That is dangerous.”

By failing to terminate at the point where the force head of driving standards had retrospectively decided that the risk had become disproportionate, PC Holden had in effect ‘caused’ the subject vehicle to drive in a dangerous manner and was responsible for the danger that resulted. Again, in the words of the prosecutor: “He [the subject driver] is a dangerous driver. He will exhibit risk. The contention is PC Holden continued when it was disproportionate and exposed other road users to risk.”

One is tempted to ask the question, why was this not dealt with by the in-force procedures? However, the more pertinent questions are, how did this case get past the CPS, a District Judge and a Crown Court Judge? Why did it go all the way to a jury? If it does go to a jury what protections or exemptions do police have? Are police drivers who engage in pursuits at risk of a similar fate to that of PC Holden in the event that someone refers a drive which is “typical of an urban pursuit” to the CPS?

The fact that PC Holden’s case survived all the legal hurdles suggests that the view of the CPS cannot be said to be an aberration. The real problem is the law and the lack of protection it offers police pursuit drivers.

This first concern is that it seems there is now a willingness to hold an officer legally responsible for the danger created by the driver he is pursuing. If a subject vehicle makes off he will create a danger. He will exceed the speed limit. He will ignore road signs. The ACPO guidelines tell us that “all pursuits are inherently dangerous”. Does this mean all officers who pursue could be liable for causing or perpetuating that danger?

An answer along the lines of “only if the officer pursues when he should have discontinued” is no answer at all. There will always be a difference of professional opinion about when and if a pursuit becomes disproportionate.

At either end of the spectrum, the answer will be obvious. In the middle it is a finely balanced judgment. There will be differences.

In PC Holden’s case neither he nor the pursuit commander, the roads policing unit driver in car two of the pursuit, the control room supervisor or the controller felt the need to end it before it was terminated.

An independent driving expert, chosen by the prosecution, also did not feel the pursuit ought to have been terminated before it was.

However, on the basis of the opinion of the head of driver training, supported by a traffic sergeant, the prosecution was mounted. Once it had started, it continued under its own momentum, through committal, through a half-time submission, all the way to a jury.

Once the case is before the jury the officer is really exposed. If the danger relied on by the prosecution is that created by the fleeing driver, then, on the argument in PC Holden’s case, the police driver will have caused or contributed to the danger by continuing to pursue. This argument may well be supplemented by an argument that the officer, in driving at speed in an urban environment, exposed the public to danger and was therefore dangerous. This also occurred in PC Holden’s case.

These arguments can be applied to virtually any substantive pursuit. The yardstick against which an officer’s driving will be judged is not the standard of a trained police pursuit driver. It is the standard of the careful and competent driver. Did the officer’s driving fall far below the standard of the careful and competent driver?

Unfortunately, the careful and competent driver does not engage in pursuits, he does not contravene traffic signs and speed limits. Yes, a police officer has exemptions under road traffic legislation but there is no exemption from dangerous driving.

If there are no legal exemptions permitting dangerous driving by a police officer during a pursuit, what distinguishes a police pursuit driver from the subject he is pursuing? The obvious answer is his training and his skill. Unfortunately, since the case of R v Bannister, a jury is not permitted to take into account an officer’s special skill and training in determining whether the driving was dangerous only against the standard of the careful and competent driver.

At present, forces have the best of both worlds, they can tell the public there is not a ‘no pursuit’ policy but, when it is politically expedient, officers who pursue can be prosecuted, and the law offers them little protection. Thankfully for PC Holden, the jury applied a common sense approach and acquitted him. However, that was after a year of worry that he would lose his job and possibly his liberty.

Until the law is changed a police officer can only hope that a reviewer does not refer his case for prosecution. The other option is for the driver not to pursue at all. But if he does pursue, and his case is referred, a police officer is left in a very exposed position, reliant upon a good barrister and a jury that accepts common sense arguments. The Police Federation can control the former, but not the latter.

Alan Jones, lead on roads policing for the Police Federation, says the issues have been raised with the director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer and ACPO. The Federation is in talks on how this will impact on operational issues and is seeking clear guidance as well as a change in the law in the long term to protect officers.

End of the road for police pursuits?

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Locked in career limbo

Many officers who have taken promotion exams are now awaiting their promotion, but increasingly officers are finding themselves locked in career limbo. Royston Martis reports

Are you one of the police officers in England and Wales all ready to be dressed up in your sergeants’ stripes or your inspectors’ pips… but with nowhere to go? Thousands of constables and sergeants across the country have passed Parts I and II of the OSPRE promotion process hoping to climb the career ladder.

One slight problem – with forces cutting their numbers across all ranks, including management positions, there are no jobs for them to go into. Cue frustration, a huge hit to morale and bobbies on the beat with aspirations wondering whether policing is still the vocation for them. So how can the service – still suffering following severe attacks to police pay and conditions – maintain motivation? What now for those locked in career limbo?

“I am absolutely devastated by the lack of opportunity,” says a PC from Greater Manchester Police, who has passed both OSPRE Parts I and II. “I have been an acting sergeant on and off for some time… I am beginning to get worried that I won’t get promoted at all.”

The officer, who asked not to be named for fear of affecting his promotion chances, adds: “I am very upset and it is really demoralising – it is affecting my work and home life. It is not fair to be kept in this limbo.

“I have started to look at job adverts… I love this job but I am beginning to feel there are no opportunities to further my career. I feel like I am hitting a brick wall.”

It was revealed last year, under a Freedom of Information request, that at least 9,150 officers in England and Wales had passed the promotion process but had not been moved up a rank.

Some 6,496 PCs and 2,654 sergeants – around one in 14 constables and sergeants in England and Wales – had passed both OSPRE Parts I and II, or work-based assessment equivalent, and were waiting for a role to go to.

As only 36 out of 44 (including the British Transport Police) forces responded to the FOI request, in reality the figures would actually be higher. One of those officers is PC Peter Ormond, from West Midlands Police. He says: “I invested a great deal of time revising and preparing, and also a fair chunk of money to pay for revision materials and courses for both parts. It is extremely frustrating… I feel we are all being dangled on a string at the moment.

“Should forces temporarily stop the exam process until they have cleared a ‘back log’ of already qualified officers? At least this way, they are being honest with officers. However, if they do stop it, there is a risk of those aspiring for the next rung to leave and take their skills elsewhere, to the loss of the organisation.”

It appears constables and sergeants are beginning to work out for themselves that there is a lack of career opportunities currently available for them in policing. Ciaran McGuigan, head of examinations and assessment at the National Policing Improvement Agency, says there has been ‘a noticeable drop’ in attendance at the OSPRE Part I exams and Part II assessment centre. In 2011, 7,017 candidates took the OSPRE Part I Sergeants’ exam which, compared to the 9,354 candidates the year before, is a 25 percent decrease. Later in the year, 1,988 officers sat the OSPRE Part II Sergeants assessment centre – a 30 percent drop year on year.

Mr McGuigan says: “Across both the sergeants’ and inspectors’ [promotion] processes, attendance numbers are down.” He added that this “is perhaps further indication of the limited promotion opportunities currently available in forces.”

When a limited number of roles do become available, there is now understandably a huge scrap for every job. “The bottleneck of officers is getting worse,” says a sergeant from South Wales Police, who has been waiting to become an inspector for more than five years.

“There do not seem to be any opportunities on the horizon. I am ambitious and it is so frustrating. It is affecting my morale on a day-to-day basis.”

So what does the sergeant – who also asked to remain anonymous – think could be done to help the thousands of front line officers locked in career limbo? “Communication would help,” he adds. “Telling us where we are in the promotion process. Perhaps they should also be looking to provide us with some career development rather than us just passing OSPRE Parts I and II and then being left alone.”

Chiefs are aware of the problem and in a statement to Police magazine, ACPO says it wants the service to be able “to recognise expertise through the pay system, rather than through rank and years of service”.

Peter Fahy, ACPO lead on workforce development, admits that a lack of promotion opportunities for officers is “a very serious issue which affects the morale and motivation of our staff.”

Mr Fahy, also chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, adds: “Before the economic crisis the police service faced a major challenge as more and more officers worked to progress up the ranks. It was clear that the workforce had greater aspirations to progress.

“Most forces were also looking to reduce the senior ranks, the current climate is only going to exacerbate the problem. ACPO has covered this in the Winsor review [into police pay and conditions]. We have highlighted the need to look at other ways of rewarding and incentivising officers with a greater emphasis on development and lateral progression.”

However, John Giblin, Police Federation of England and Wales lead on professional development, said with the “vast majority of forces” not promoting, “it is a very, very bad time for people with aspirations”.

He added: “It is disheartening for officers to see the lack of promotion opportunities. That is the problem the organisation has at the moment – how do you manage talented people? And manage their expectations? I really don’t know how you can keep people motivated at this time.

“Ambition is a brilliant thing – and we have so much talent in the organisation – but people are hitting the buffers.”

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Time to get the message

The message from police officers preparing to march in their thousands across the streets of London is that enough is enough and cuts to policing are criminal, writes Simon Reed, vice-chair of the Police Federation

Simon Reed, vice-chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales

The police service is standing on the precipice of massive change – change so fundamental that it will completely alter the nature of British policing as we understand it. Now the government will see the strength of feeling from those at the coalface next month, as thousands of officers are due to march across London, as we go to press, upset over cuts to the service they provide and over the erosion of policing. Home Secretary, if you read this, take notice of that show of anger and frustration and change your mind before it’s too late.

The government talk about being fair, fair to the police and fair to the public, ensuring everyone is taking their share of the burden on the economy in turbulent times by making their contribution. A combination of 20 percent cuts to budgets, a two-year pay freeze, and pension contribution increase, losing 34,000 police staff and police officers over the next four years is more than a contribution Home Secretary. Officers and their families have taken their fair share of the economic burden, but now feel they are being singled out for unfair treatment.

The service now faces a barrage of ‘reforms’ including the privatisation of policing functions such as investigation and patrol; changes to entry requirements into policing which could narrow the diversity of the service; direct entry which could see managers from outside organisations directing officers in a riot situation after just a few years’ training; and the ‘freezing out’ of those officers on restricted duties, some who have been injured serving the public or who have become ill later in life.

In this month’s issue of Police magazine (News, page 6) we highlight just a couple of cases where officers with families will not only be hit by the pay freeze but, under recommendations made in Tom Winsor’s Part 2 report, would see their pay cut by thousands. These are the real stories of individuals behind the policy and balancing of the books which prove just how unfairly officers are being treated. So, it is fine for them to give years of service to policing as a constable or in any other rank out on the streets protecting the public, but when it comes to offering them any protection for such a physical role when they are injured or their circumstances change outside of their control, they will be penalised, their wages diminished and potentially pushed ‘out of service’.

We have tried to go through the official channels and negotiate based on hard facts and presenting a robust case as to why some of the proposals in Tom Winsor’s reports were ill-conceived, but this has fallen on deaf ears. One has to question why the supposedly independent report by Winsor has seen the majority of police-related recommendations rubber-stamped by the Home Secretary. Unlike previous reports into policing, much of its content is based on one person’s fatuous opinions, it appears to be a fait accompli and one we are not willing to accept. Our members have come to the end of their tether and have now called for a ballot looking at seeking industrial rights. The ballot will meet the highest standard required to ensure integrity and the message will be clear.

Home Secretary – watch the march from the windows of the Home Office and realise; enough is enough.

View from the vice-chair: Time to get the message

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On The Move!

No, not us on the move but this picture from an early 1970’s edition of ‘Off Beat’ speaks volumes about how ‘the job’ has changed.

The caption tells us that Taf Evans, (or is that John Bourne?), Dave Woodhams and John Stewartson, (love the sideburns John), are helping to ‘move house’ as part of the shift to the ‘new’ Guildford Police Station.

Consider that today a similar move would entail a Health and Safety risk assessment which would probably see all the old fixture and fittings scrapped necessitating all new and of course, the banning of anybody getting involved who had not had a course on anything that H&S considers necessary.  That assessment would also conclude that the hiring of a removal company at great expense would also be necessary etc. etc.

Some would say that is progress and that police officers should not be moving furniture, that’s as maybe but since that photo was taken budgets have had to increase exponentially to cater for staffing increases and other incidentals to such a point that budgets have become unsustainable.

Surrey police are not moving into new police stations anymore, they are closing them down and reducing the committed staff that were once the backbone of the organisation, those people that could turn their hand to anything, warranted police officers, (unless you buy the ‘200 increase’ that has been touted).

See: 25 firemen sent to rescue one seagull from 3ft deep pond 

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The scene is an office in what used to be Buckingham Palace but is now the regional headquarters of  Western Ternary Facilitators, also known as WTF Security Services.  There is a knock on the door.

Come in.

Hello sir, you wanted to see me.

Ah, Polkins, do come in and sit down.  I would like to have a chat with you about your latest appraisal.

Thank you, sir.  I could do with a sit down.  Is there a problem over the appraisal?

Well, Polkins, you will be aware of the great reforms made in the Police service in the past ten years by our illustrious Prime Minister Mr Winsor, though he wasn’t the Prime Minister then, of course.

I do indeed sir, and I must admit that at the time  I had some reservations about them.  However, as I recall, despite protests by the Police and the Federation, they all went through without any amendment because no one else showed any interest.

Of course they would go through, Polkins.  At the time, His Gingerness sat at the feet of his mentor, benefactor and dinner guest, David Cameron, diligently noted his comments and re-read his speeches and incorporated them into the proposals.  Under such conditions, why would there be any amendments?

Ah, yes, David Cameron.  The Great Procurer.

It’s Procurator, Polkins, not Procurer.  That intimates someone who makes others prostitute themselves for personal benefit.

So, not far off then.

What was that, Polkins, I didn’t hear that. Stop mumbling man.

Sorry, sir.  It was nothing.

Right.  Now, let’s have a look at your appraisal shall we.  You have been in your present role for how long?

Nine years sir, since the new regulations were introduced.

Of course.  As you know when WTF Security began our partnership with all the Police forces in the country, we knew that Police officers would be required to be the ‘front line’ in our combined fight against crime and the forces of evil, especially when so many of your colleagues jumped ship and left us in the lurch.

Perhaps they didn’t want to continue under the new conditions of service, sir?  Having to pay 75% of their salary towards a pension of 10% of salary and a retirement age of 65 didn’t seem so attractive.  Plus there were the problems of 18 hour shifts with only one day off a month. 

Be that as it may, it certainly left us with matters to sort out.  At the time, Government legislation meant that employees of WTF Security could only act in support of Police officers, especially in the matter of making arrests.  To continue in an efficient manner, meet our targets and appease our shareholders, I mean, partners, we needed those Police officers.

Why didn’t you just go for a change in the law, Sir?

We tried to have the law changed, Polkins, oh how we tried.  Several times in fact, though with little success and at great expense.  Do you have any idea how much it costs to keep taking the WTF Operations Director, Lord Ken Clarke, out of cryo-freeze and then put him back after he’s voted?  A fortune, Polkins, a fortune.  Plus it plays havoc with his Hush Puppies.  All that damp ruins the nap.  We even brought out all the other big guns.  Everyone spoke in favour, from The Chancellor of the Exchequer Dame Sarah Ferguson to the Home Secretary Sir Peter Docherty. By the way, Polkins, why are you still here?  Why didn’t you run like the others?

It was a matter of timing, sir.  I was on holiday when all the changes came in and by the time I returned, it had all happened.

Why don’t you leave now, Polkins?

Can’t afford to Sir.

What do you mean?

Well sir, you know that under Prime Minister, before he was Prime Minister, Winsor’s proposals, those who were either taken out of the front line, were overweight, or couldn’t pass the fitness tests faced pay cuts.

Yes, I do recall those conditions of service.

While the fitness test was linked to the Police Force of Northern Ireland, I had no real problem.  They started when the tests were linked to the SAS selection course.  Three times I tried but sadly failed, and then I injured my leg and hip being made to sprint up the Brecon Beacons carrying a life sized effigy of Nick Clegg.

Your mean the Her Excellency The European Commissioner Nicola Clegg don’t you Polkins.  She becomes rather upset at being referred to in such a common manner.

I always thought she wanted to give the impression of being a man, or rather woman of the people sir?

Impression, Polkins, Impression.  Completely different from the real thing.  You must have to admit showing admiration for her.  Being told that her Party could only show equality by having a woman Leader and advised it was either a sex change or step down. Shows her commitment.  Anyway, how did that affect your status?

Once I couldn’t pass the fitness tests, I had my salary reduced.  Then when my injury meant I could no longer be ‘front line’, I had my salary reduced further.  Finally, when I began to put on weight through being unable to exercise, I had my salary reduced even more.

Goodness me, Polkins.  And how did that affect you?

As at yesterday, sir, I owe the Prime Minister £143,723. 27p.


And 27 pence sir.

But surely you’re now too old to be a Police officer, even with the latest retirement age?

Technically I am sir, but as long as a Police officer is needed to make an arrest, my retirement age keeps being increased.

But why is that, Polkins?

Well sir, I’m the only Police officer left in the country!

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Retired Sergeant Eric Spurgeon

Fellow pensioners

I have today learnt that retired Sergeant Eric Spurgeon died on 13thMarch 2012.

I have no further details and contact is being attempted with his daughter.  It is not known whether the funeral has taken place.   Any further information will be circulated when known.

Tony Forward



Fellow pensioners

Yesterday I circulated the death of retired Sergeant Eric Spurgeon, (above). 

He was aged 92.  His funeral will take place at 2.30pm on Thursday 26th April at Guildford Crematorium.  Aylings Funeral Services, Aldershot Road, Guildford are dealing.

So far I have been unable to make contact with his daughter Judith, who is making the arrangements.

Tony Forward

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Raise retirement age again ‘to save British economy':

Pension warning as Britain told to act now or see £750 BILLION added to national debt

  • IMF predicted national debt could spiral to 135% of national income by 2050 if the average lifespan in the UK rose by just three years more than predicted

British workers should be forced to delay their retirements now or see £750billion added to the national debt, the International Monetary Fund warned yesterday.

It said the country faced financial ruin if the average lifespan in the UK rose by just three years more than predicted.

The organisation warned that if that happened, £750billion would be added to the national debt by 2050 to pay for the increased cost of pensions and healthcare.
Pensions Road Sign against threatening clouds.

Grey future: The IMF suggested a further increase in retirement ages, higher contributions into pension pots from employers and employees, and smaller payouts to those in old age

That would push the debt burden up from 76 per cent of national output to as much as 135 per cent.

In a report into so-called ‘longevity risk’, the Washington-based IMF urged governments to tackle the problem now before it is too late.

It suggested a further increase in retirement ages, higher contributions into pension pots from employers and employees, and smaller payouts to those in old age.

The report also said countries should consider linking the retirement age to life expectancy – an option being explored in Downing Street. ‘An essential reform is to allow retirement ages to increase along with expected longevity,’ the IMF report said. 

‘This could be mandated by the government, but individuals could also be incentivised to delay retirement.’ 

The proposals raise the prospect of millions of Britons working into their seventies and even eighties.

The state pension age is already being increased to 67 for men and women by 2028, and to 68 by 2046.

However, experts say linking the pension age to life expectancy would inevitably mean more rapid increases.

Nevertheless, Laura Kodres, an assistant director at the IMF, said such a plan would ‘keep the number of years in retirement constant’ and ease the strain on the public finances.

‘The longer you ignore it, the more difficult it becomes to resolve,’ she said. ‘The time to act is now.’ 

Demographers continue to expect the rise in life expectancy to slow down – but such a phenomenon has yet to occur in Britain.

After the Second World War, when the state pension age was 65 for men, their life expectancy was 66.4 years, while women’s was 72.5 years. 

In 1977 the Government  was guided by actuaries who predicted that average life expectancy in 2011 would  be 71.

In fact, men today typically live to 77, while the figure is 82 for women. By 2056, the life expectancy for a man and woman living in England is expected to be 84 and 89 respectively.

The IMF said forecasts ‘have consistently underestimated how long people live’. 

It claimed that predictions about longevity over the past 20 years had been too low by an average of about three years.

The IMF forecasts that the global cost of providing for an elderly population – based on replacing 60 per cent of pre-retirement income – will double over the coming  40 years. 

In advanced countries such as ours, the annual cost will rise from 5 per cent of gross domestic product to 11 per cent.

‘If individuals live three years longer than expected – in line with underestimations in  the past – the already large cost of ageing could increase by another 50 per cent,’ the  IMF argued.

It said this would heighten the threat to government finances and could also damage ‘the solvency of private financial and corporate institutions exposed to longevity risk’. 

The risks were greatest for institutions offering defined benefit pension plans and life annuities, it said.

Raise retirement age again ‘to save British economy':

See Also: IMF warns of £750bn pensions time bomb

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Adviser to Britain’s police chiefs jailed

Nicholas White was caught with images of children being forced into sex acts with animalsAn adviser to Britain’s police chiefs downloaded more than 100,000 images of child porn – including a guide on how to abuse infants.

Among Nicholas White’s sickening collection were images of youngsters being forced into sex acts with animals.

The 28-year-old, (pictured), was jailed for six months after he admitted 18 counts of making indecent images of children, two counts of possession of indecent images of children and two counts of possessing extreme pornography.

White, a communications officer who worked for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), was based with Cambridgeshire Police until his arrest last year.

He was found with level five images of abuse – the most severe category – and a guide to abusing children on his computer.

Cambridge Crown Court today heard that police discovered 110,000 child sex images stored on White’s computer and an external hard drive when they raided his home in Royston, Hertfordshire, last year.

Judge Mr Justice Saunders told White as he sentenced him: ‘Children are exploited in the way they are exploited because people like you download these images.’

Alexander Taylor-Camara, defending, said martial arts fanatic White had become an isolated figure after a series of bad relationships, which he said ‘explained but did not excuse’ his behaviour.

White was also disqualified from working with children indefinitely and made subject of a sexual offences prevention order for seven years.

He was also forced to sign the sex offenders’ register and is banned from using the internet, apart from for business.

Adviser to Britain’s police chiefs jailed

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