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Forces ordered to bring driver training in-house after law change

Forces are to be banned from using private driver training firms for officers.

Forces contracting out training to private firms have been warned their drivers could be at risk of prosecution after a road traffic accident, following an overhaul of legislation.

The Police Federation and National Police Chiefs’ Council warned all police drivers to make sure their training is up to date – and urged them to report forces who opt for non-force instructors as a way of saving time and money.

Details came in the first update - at the annual Police Federation conference - which followed the changes in the law to give police drivers greater protection.

After intensive lobbying by the Fed and NPCC, the legislation was changed so that should any officer be involved in a collision, the courts will now be able to judge their standard of driving against a competent and careful peer with the same prescribed training.

Full regulations are being finalised by the College of Policing but the broad principles are now in place.

The changes, made in the Police and Crime Act, ends the legal jeopardy for officers which led to a series of prosecutions by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

The Crown Prosecution Service and IOPC have supported two new conditions officers must meet if they are to be covered by the legislation.

A new group of expert witnesses who will assess incidents for forces is currently being set up.

And officers who have trained before the legislation was brought in will be covered by the new legislation under ‘grandparent rights’ as long as their licence is within date.

Both organisations also made clear they see the reforms as part of work to standardise training and support for police drivers across every force.

They urged drivers to check their training certificate is in date and remind driving leads about the changes.

Officers were told to report to their Fed reps any forces that ignore the demands.

DCC Terry Woods, the national lead on police driving, said it should also be the start of a change in attitudes by leaders.

“Police driving over many years, for many reasons has not been recognised as the most high-risk thing that we do,” he said.

“There’s some personal responsibility and organisational responsibility. But they’ve got to be able to evidence they’ve been on a course.”

DCC Woods added: “If you can give your force a nudge that would be really helpful. Ask your Chief and driving leads. I would be supportive if it [in-force training] is a no.”

Tim Roger, Driving Lead for the Police Federation, told Police Oracle: “Officers will be able to carry put their duties without fear of prosecution under the new regulations if they follow the rules.”

“We should only be having our cops trained by people who are in the forces,” he added.

But concern has been raised that the combination of officers renewing their driving permit and Uplift recruits will overwhelm testers.

Cambridge Fed Chair Liz Groom said: “We’ve a got serious backlogs. It takes two to two-and-a-half years to get on courses. That’s actually quite a big risk for our new officers.”

The Home Secretary said she wanted an end to officers being pulled into the court system simply by doing their job.

Priti Patel said: “It’s extremely important to me that the law empowers and protects police officers so that you can carry out your duties effectively.

“I want our highly trained officers to have the confidence that they need to fight crime effectively but also to be represented effectively.” 

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