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Home Office rules out new offence of using vehicle as weapon

New laws aren’t needed for offenders who use vehicles as weapons against officers, the Home Office has ruled.

The Home Office won’t be creating new legislation to tackle offenders who use a vehicle as a weapon against officers.

It says current laws are enough to jail offenders, despite pleas from the Fed and senior officers.

Groups representing officers and the National Police Chiefs’ Council have been told the legislation is strong enough, following a review by a working group.

The Police Federation told Police Oracle that the decision was “extremely disappointing”.

“Given the unique role that police officers have in society, to protect people and uphold the law, the introduction of this legislation would have sent a clear and strong message to offenders and demonstrated support and understanding by the government,” the Fed said.

It means an offender inflicting life-changing injuries on an officer that could end their career will only be charged with offences of causing serious injury by driving dangerously (section 1A Road Traffic Act 1988).

“Serious injury” is an injury that is within the scope of grievous bodily harm under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 – really serious bodily harm. 

Earlier this year, the government increased the tariff for people who assault an emergency worker to two years.

Offenders will only face a significant jail term if they kill an officer thanks to Harper’s Law – which was brought in after a campaign by the widow of PC Andrew Harper who was killed by a vehicle while on duty.

Officials are now looking at how the CPS makes its charging decisions.

The issue was reviewed after the number of incidents was raised by the Police Federation and forces.

This weekend, Nottinghamshire Police revealed an officer was struck by a car and dragged away. A 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of drink driving, failing to stop and driving without insurance.

Insp Matt Scott said: "This was a frightening incident for the officer involved, who thankfully was not seriously hurt."

Earlier this month, a Thames Valley officer who was on foot was hit while trying to stop a BMW in Abingdon.

A Merseyside officer was deliberately struck by a van with a number of people inside while attempting to retrieve a bag containing cannabis. The officer was seriously injured.

A Met officer was left with potentially life changing injuries after being hit by an accelerating vehicle that he was attempting to stop in Hillingdon.

Chief Superintendent Peter Gardner, said it was “a shocking incident”. 

“It was a deliberate act to evade police which has left one of my officers in hospital,” he said. 

A working group including the NPCC was tasked by the Home Office with “understanding charging decisions” relating to assaults against officers using a vehicle.

But Policing minister Kit Malthouse noted “that substantial work had taken place to conclude that a change in legislation was not required and therefore this work could continue but under a new workstream which would consider the wider circumstances involving charging of such assaults”.

There was anger from frontline officers that tougher legislation won’t be going on the statute books.                                             

The Police Federation told Police Oracle: “We have seen the level of assaults on police officers increase in recent years and offenders are using a number of different ways to carry out their attacks.

“It is therefore extremely disappointing that, despite being identified in the NPCC Officer and Staff Safety Review as a real risk, the Home Office has decided not to introduce specific legislation to tackle offenders who threaten or attempt to use a vehicle to target a police officer.”

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