Sir Henry Bellingham calls for better protection for 999 drivers

Conservative South West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham

Conservative South West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A Norfolk MP has called for better protection for 999 drivers involved in accidents.

Sir Henry Bellingham wants emergency service drivers to avoid normal legal tests for civil liability and criminal prosecution in specified circumstances owing to their extra training.

Proposing a new Bill in the House of Commons he said: 'My Bill would simply make it clear that the expertise and training of officers can be taken into consideration. In other words, the test applied would not be the universal test but a specific test for these emergency vehicle drivers.'

But the proposal would not exempt 999 drivers from prosecution if it was proved an accident was their fault.

Sir Henry added: 'Some of my colleagues have said, 'is this a charter for the police acting irresponsibly, going berserk and getting carried away?'

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'It is categorically not. Obviously, they would have to follow their training, the training manual and their professional judgment, and nor would there be an exemption for aggravating factors — for example, if the police officer was over the limit, recovering from a sickness or driving recklessly.'

The North West Norfolk MP used the example of PC Richard Jeffery who intercepted a stolen car being driven erratically late at night in North Walsham. After a brief pursuit the driver of the car, Preston Fulcher, 19, lost control and was killed.

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'PC Richard Jeffery was suspended and investigated for gross misconduct,' Sir Henry said. 'Understandably the case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. After three months, it decided there was no case to answer. The family of the victim appealed the decision to the CPS and the case went on for several more months, but still there was no case to answer. The Independent Police Complaints Commission then investigated the accusation of gross misconduct for nearly two years. At the end of it, he was completely exonerated.

'The CPS and the IPCC could not look at the extra training and expertise of the police officer — they could not apply the test of a competent and careful trained response driver; they could judge him only by the 'competent and careful driver' standard, which is the standard applied to us all.'

The Bill will be read for a second time in March.

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