Review of prosecutions for driving offences launched after acquittal of Portsmouth PC

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PLANS for bold legal reforms could see fewer emergency services personnel charged with criminal offences over their response to 999 call-outs.

Draft Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance today suggests it is should be‘very unlikely’ police, fire and ambulance workers are prosecuted for committing driving offences while responding to call-outs.

PROSECUTED Pc James Holden

PROSECUTED Pc James Holden

A public consultation launched today follows criticism by the Police Federation – which represents rank-and-file officers – of the CPS for prosecuting Portsmouth PC James Holden for dangerous driving.

The Federation raised fears PC Holden’s case has caused officers nationwide concerns that they too could end up being prosecuted – despite him being acquitted.

John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, said: ‘This is something we have been campaigning for since PC James Holden was acquitted.

‘This is not about allowing police officers or other emergency drivers to drive as they please with no consequences.

‘There needs to be a very close look at charging standards when emergency drivers are performing the role they are trained to do.

‘If there is a collision or injury or fatality then it is right and proper that they are subjected to the scrutiny that the public would expect.

‘However, without a review and potential change in the law, emergency drivers are putting themselves at risk of prosecution every time they turn their blue lights on – and that is not an acceptable position to be in.’

PC James Holden told The News of the ‘mental anguish’ he suffered before being acquitted of dangerous driving over his pursuit of serial burglar Louis Bibby - as seen in the video above - following a seven day trial.

Holden was charged over his pursuit of Bibby, who was driving a stolen Renault Kangoo minivan which crashed into the level crossing outside Cosham train station in February last year.

Bibby, then 19, and has 145 previous convictions, was on bail at the time and fled the scene.

He was caught and later jailed for four years after admitting a string of crimes including dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, and without insurance, aggravated vehicle taking causing damage and two counts of burglary with intent to steal.

No-one was hurt in the incident.

In a statement, director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer said: ‘Those who work in the emergency services need to know that they can respond to an emergency call without fear of prosecution for doing their job.

‘This is not a licence for emergency workers to act with immunity from prosecution, but it is important to appreciate that police officers, ambulance drivers and fire-fighters sometimes need to drive in a manner which would be not be considered acceptable by other drivers.

‘Prosecutors are advised that a criminal prosecution should be very unlikely, and that they should consider the nature of the particular emergency when considering if a prosecution is in the public interest.

‘It’s also, of course, important that members of the public have confidence that the emergency services are able to do their important work.’

The draft guidance also suggests there may be no public interest in charging people in cases where members of their family or close friends are killed – as they will already have suffered ‘overwhelming grief.’

The consultation ends on November 8.