Police officer accused of speeding to beat traffic cleared of 16 charges
- Credit: Archant
A police officer accused of abusing his position to “force through rush hour traffic” at up to 122mph on a personal errand has been cleared of 16 driving offences.
Pc Paul Brown insisted he was fulfilling mandatory requirements to practice driving under emergency conditions and was legally exempt from restrictions.
The 48-year-old was accused of travelling at up to 122mph, jumping four traffic lights and failing to observe 'left lane only' markings on a return trip between Wymondham station and City College Norwich on the morning of April 30 last year.
He denied all charges at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Monday, insisting he acted in accordance with 'continuing professional development (CPD)' and was subject to exemptions under the Road Traffic Regulation Act.
Prosecutor Harry O'Sullivan called Pc Brown's claim that he sought advanced permission to use a high performance BMW X5 to conduct CPD a "post-incident fabrication".
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Pc Brown was on duty as an instructor with the joint Norfolk and Suffolk driver training unit when he drove to a pre-arranged meeting concerning his son at City College Norwich.
Based on information received later that day from a former police officer, his superior, James Waller, examined telematics on the car and found data which led to the 11 speeding charges, four counts of failing to comply with traffic lights and one charge of failing to comply with a traffic sign.
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Pc Brown said he was "shocked and confused" that a "tongue in cheek" message from an ex-officer reporting the incident had led to the prosecution.
He said it was common practice for CPD to be conducted by lone officers, and that he had never driven under emergency conditions for anything other than a policing purpose.
He denied the prosecution's claim he drove with blue lights, at speed, "wholly for convenience", telling the court he had made the same journey 10 times in a 'Highway Code complaint' manner and arrived in time on seven or eight occasions.
Fraser Coxhill, defending, said the fact Pc Brown's driving was replicated on the return journey supported the evidence that he was conducting CPD.
Magistrates said they could not be sure Pc Brown had not been conducting self-assessed CPD and acquitted him of all charges.
During the hearing, Pc Waller said there was no national or local policy on how CPD should be achieved, but said he felt Pc Brown's use of the vehicle fell outside the College of Policing's Authorised Professional Practice guidelines.
Mark Milton, who was National Police Chief's Council lead for driver training education, said he was disappointed to hear of other officers informing the investigation that they had or would conduct CPD alone and without advanced permission.
Anne Walker, chairman of the bench of magistrates, said: "We hope that Suffolk and Norfolk constabularies establish clearer guidelines on the undertaking and recording of CPD for this staff group."
Following the verdict, Andy Symonds, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, which funded Pc Brown's defence, said: "There was some stinging criticism which instructs the forces to get guidance to all officers and drivers around CPD.
"We can't have another officer in this position in a week or month's time.
"There is a feeling that he was the unlucky one, and that this could have happened to any officer."