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Police: Pursuits

Volume 718: debated on Monday 29 March 2010


My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Security (David Hanson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today launched a public consultation on the management of police pursuits. To promote the efficiency and effectiveness generally of the police, Section 39A of the Police Act 1996 empowers me to issue to chief officers of police codes of practice relating to the discharge of their functions.

The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) will be leading a 12-week public consultation on the draft of a code of practice on the management of police pursuits. The draft has been produced following detailed discussions involving the Home Office (HO), the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), NPIA and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). We have also consulted the Department for Transport, the Superintendents’ Association, the Police Federation, the Health and Safety Executive and the Scottish and Welsh Assembly Governments.

Police on-road pursuits typically involve around 35 to 40 fatalities a year. Not all of these involve the pursuit car. However, both ACPO and the HO agree with the IPCC that we need to ensure we have done all we can to ensure public safety in the process of preventing crime. I want to reduce the risk of casualties to the minimum and ensure that pursuits are undertaken as safely as possible and only when a necessary and proportionate means of preventing crime and apprehending offenders. I want to ensure public confidence in the management of pursuits.

In 2007, the IPCC published research on police pursuits. Its recommendations included the updating, development and codification of existing ACPO guidance on pursuit management. ACPO prepared new guidance and recommended to Ministers that it should be issued as a statutory code. The Police Act requires chief officers to have regard to such a code. Its issue would therefore ensure more consistent good practice.

Ministers agreed the ACPO recommendation. To help achieve earlier benefits from the guidance and speedier implementation of the code, a Home Office circular was issued last July to all police forces. This announced the planned development of a statutory code based on the guidance and HO and ACPO agreement that all forces should work towards full compliance with that guidance.

The draft code clearly sets out over-arching requirements and principles, including the need to comply with the detailed ACPO operational guidance. The guidance will remain a separate document, subject to up-dating and amendment as necessary. Code and guidance together will reduce the risks of death and serious injury, enhance public confidence in pursuit management and promote the safe prevention of crime and apprehension of offenders.

Following the consultation, we will consider the responses and feed these into a final draft. The Act requires me to lay before Parliament the code as finally issued. I intend to do this before the end of the year.

NPIA is sending the draft code direct to the police and other key parties and it is available for public comment on the NPIA and HO websites. Copies are also available from the Vote Office and in the House Library.