PC Paul Brown (pictured), 48, was given permission to borrow the car while on duty to discuss his son’s education staff at City College Norwich
A police driving instructor who drove an unmarked patrol car to a private meeting at speeds of more than 120 mph was cleared of speeding offences today.
PC Paul Brown, 48, was given permission to borrow the powerful BMW X5 while on duty for a 17-mile round trip to discuss his son’s education staff at City College Norwich.
He was cleared of 11 offences of speeding, four of jumping red lights and one of driving on the wrong side of a keep left marker, after he claimed that he was practising his fast driving skills. He had denied all the charges.
PC Brown clocked up a speed of 122mph on the A11 dual carriageway near Norwich, Norfolk, while using the car’s blue flashing lights and sounding the sirens intermittently.
Suffolk magistrates court in Ipswich was today shown dashcam footage of his journey, showing cars and lorries pulling over and stopping to allow him to pass.
At one point the police instructor reached 101mph in a 30mph zone on his way to the college where his son was a student, just before 9am on April 30 last year.
A colleague later became suspicious and checked the car’s data recording equipment after PC Brown returned it to the Norfolk Police headquarters at Wymondham.
PC Brown claimed that he had been self-assessing himself at the time as part of his requirement to carry out continuing professional development (CPD). He insisted that he had told a colleague about his plans in advance.
Suffolk magistrates court in Ipswich heard that speeding was a necessary part of training and officers being trained could claim an exemption from traffic laws.
But the prosecution claimed that PC Brown, a Norfolk Police driving instructor since 2016 and an officer for 18 years, had not been authorised to use the car for his training while driving alone to and from the college.
PC Brown (pictured) was cleared of 11 offences of speeding, four of jumping red lights and one of driving on the wrong side of a keep left marker, after he claimed that he was practising his fast driving skills
Prosecutor Harry O’Sullivan said it was not an issue that PC Brown was driving the car at the time on ‘a personal errand’.
But he added: ‘What is in dispute is that he as a serving police officer had been acting under legal exemption to road traffic laws such as speeding and jumping red lights.’
Mr O’Sullivan said that PC Brown’s claim he was conducting CPD at the time were denied by the Crown.
He added: ‘PC Brown was late for a meeting and drove the way he did, not out of concern to keep his driving up to scratch and perform CPD, but because he was late.
‘The manner of driving is consistent with a police officer abusing a vehicle and abusing his position to force his way through rush hour traffic to get somewhere in time.’
PC James Waller, a senior driving instructor at Norfolk police, said he had given permission for PC Brown to take the police car to his private appointment at around 8.30am on April 30 last year.
But he denied that PC Brown had told him that he was going to carry out CPD at the time.
He added: ‘He said it was regarding his son and it was a personal matter. I didn’t ask any more about it.’
PC Waller, who is now with Police Scotland, said he later had ’cause for concern’ to check the telemetric recording data on the car.
Suffolk magistrates court in Ipswich (pictured) was today shown dashcam footage of his journey, showing cars and lorries pulling over and stopping to allow him to pass
He said: ‘My understanding was that it was for a private meeting and I was surprised to see that blue lights had been used. There were several occasions when the speed of the vehicle had gone beyond the speed limit.
‘It did surprise me and I was a bit disappointed because the vehicle had been given on an ad hoc basis for a private matter and a private journey. I was not expecting it to have been driven in this way.
‘We have an unwritten rule that for small journeys like this, we have been able to use driving school vehicles.’
PC Brown made no comment in a police interview, but in a prepared statement said that he was required to do CPD in his role. He claimed he had never driven a police car ‘for any other purpose other than with what my role requires.’
Giving evidence in court, he insisted that he was carrying out CPD on himself at the time, and had informed PC Waller that he was doing so.
He said: ‘I wanted to keep my driving skills up to scratch. If my standards fall short, my credibility goes out of the window.
‘It was a personal appointment. It was a 15 minute or 20 minute drive and it would give me what I needed – a bit of a refresh to double check my skills.’
He denied driving fast to get to his appointment on time, saying: ‘It’s wholly wrong, utter nonsense’.
He claimed that he could have disengaged the car’s recording equipment, but had kept it on so he could analyse his driving performance afterwards.
Mark Milton who was the National Police Chief Council’s lead for driver training at the time of the incident admitted that there had been no national policy laid down on how instructors to conduct CPD.
Speaking to the court via a video-link, he said that PC Brown’s manner of driving had been ‘pretty typical’ for an officer attending an emergency call or training for ’emergency circumstances’.
But he said that if an instructor was carrying out CPD, he would have expected another officer in the car to judge the driver’s performance, and a training session with clearly defined goals followed by a debrief.
Mr Milton said: ‘Someone training themselves is just not realistic. You simply cannot perform two functions at the same time. We would expect a written record to show whether the driver met the standard.’
Des Pooley, the head of the joint Norfolk and Suffolk police driving instruction unit, confirmed that there was no local written down policy about CPD training, other than a requirement that officers undertake it.
He admitted that he had carried out CPD driving by himself while travelling between the Norfolk and Suffolk after getting permission to do so.
Mr Pooley said there had been the ‘odd occasion’ when instructors had also trained themselves, but only after getting permission from him, PC Waller or another colleague.
Another police instructor PC Shaun Newby said he sometimes did CPD training sessions alone ‘while assessing training routes for students’.
Fraser Cox Hill, defending PC Brown, said: ‘There is simply insufficient evidence for conviction. There is no dispute about the driving that took place or the speeds achieved
Clearing him of all charges, presiding magistrate Anne Walker saying that there was no agreed policy or rules for how police instructors should do their own training and record it.
She added: ‘We cannot be sure that Mr Brown did not undertake these two journeys while carrying out his own CPD.’
Mrs Walker also called for Norfolk and Suffolk Police to draw up new procedures with regard to how driving instructor training was carried out and recorded.
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