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Legal protection for pursuit cops; new proposals to safeguard police chasing scrambler yobs.

Byline: LUKE TRAYNOR Chief Reporter luke.traynor@trinitymirror.com @LUKETRAYNORECHO

NEW proposals could give police on Merseyside better legal protection when chasing yobs on scrambler bikes.

The question is a hot topic for officers who might potentially be hauled before the courts if their pursuit led to a criminal rider's injury, or even death.

Under current rules, any motorist - including police officers pursuing suspects - who fails to drive in a "competent and careful" manner can be prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving.

Now, the Government has launched a consultation on proposals to tackle motorcycle-related crime, which includes new guidelines recognising police pursuit drivers' higher level of training and offering them greater protection from prosecution.

The proposals aim to dispel the "myth" that officers cannot pursue riders who are not wearing helmets.

That belief is incorrect - helmetless riders can be pursued, but police can only do so if they think the potential for a rider to commit a serious crime is greater than the risk caused to pedestrians and other road users by chasing them. Further still, the sight of bikers pulling wheelies past stationary patrol cars could also be about to become a thing of the past.

Last year, PC James Ellerton was cleared of dangerous driving after knocking a man off his scrambler bike while he was pulling wheelies and driving on the wrong side of the road in Toxteth.

The prosecution was slammed by many, including Peter Singleton, chairman of Merseyside Police Federation, who said: "How can it be in the public interest to charge an officer and put them before a court when they were simply trying to protect the public from harm?" The new blueprints have been welcomed by the region's Police and Crime Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, who has previously called for changes in the law to give officers more protection when chasing criminals on the region's roads, particularly those on motorcycles. And now she has said: "I warmly welcome these proposals, which are long overdue. For far too long, police drivers have had the fear that they themselves could end up in court for suing an individual who is driving dangerously.

"That fear became a reality for one officer who endured months of anxiety while his case was considered and he was eventually exonerated.

"Police pursuit drivers are highly trained and incredibly skilled.

"They need to have the confidence that they can go after criminals who are putting the safety of other road users and pedestrians in jeopardy, and apprehend them without worrying about the potential repercussions for themselves. "This legislation is also important in sending out a message to those who think they can cause havoc with scrambler bikes on our streets and get away it.

"This is not the case and they will be pursued - whether they are wearing a helmet or not."

The rules will also make clear that a scrambler or motorcycle rider who does not wear a helmet is responsible for their own decision to drive dangerously.

| The consultation is open until 12 noon on August 13, and the public can share their views at https:// www.gov.uk/government/consultations/police-pursuits

CAPTION(S):

Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy at the launch of an antiscrambler bike campaign in 2016
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 30, 2018
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