Police Illegally Stop Driver on Motorway

Strathclyde Police LogoLast January, a motorist was given quite a scare when he was chased by a car on the motorway. The man, who has remained unnamed, called 999 only to be told that the vehicle following him was an unmarked Strathclyde Police car with two plain clothed officers inside. Unmarked police vehicles don’t have any visual or audible warning equipment, and Strathclyde Police has been heavily criticised for how the man was pursued for seven miles.

On Thursday, Scotland Police Complaints Commissioner Professor John McNeill released a report that said that the male motorist claimed the unmarked car followed him onto the motorway and started flashing its headlights at him. They found that the officers were pursuing him because they thought he was dangerously driving. However, he didn’t know that the car was an unmarked police vehicle. He became so concerned about being followed by the car, which he could only tell was carrying two men, that he phoned 999 while driving to report the matter.

McNeill said the applicant drove several minutes before the 999 operator advised him that the vehicle following him was a police vehicle. By that time, the man stopped his car after having driven for about seven miles on the motorwa – from the time he claims to have first become aware of the officers. He finds that Strathclyde Police have poorly handled three of four complaints made the man, who was charged with traffic offences when he pulled onto the hard shoulder after being informed that the vehicle following him was an unmarked police car.

The commissioner cited the 2009 Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland guidance, which prohibits officers from using unmarked cars. He recommends that Strathclyde Police apologise to the man for the pursuit and being stopped when the plain clothes officers didn’t have the power to do so. He also asked that the force respond to concerns raised by the man about his personal safety during questioning in the unmarked car. Additionally, the commissioner rejected a complaint from the man about the detective constable being rude towards him.

McNeill added that he’s undertaking an audit of all Scottish forces to establish how effective they are in identifying and recording public complaints. He’s glad that this man’s experience isn’t typical of what he’s seen elsewhere in the country. However, this case serves as a timely reminder that poorly handled complaints damage the public’s confidence in authorities.

Deputy Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan says that the report makes some points about how they handled this particular complaint. They are reviewing these points and will ensure that they are acted upon where appropriate. However, they can’t and won’t accept that the officers acted without any legal basis or illegally. They believe this declaration to be wrong, and they will write to the commission to make that clear.

Deputy Corrigan added that the officers acted outwith ACPO guidelines, but he asks the public to stop for a second and consider why they did. They saw a motorist driving erratically on a busy road and believed this represented a risk to other motorists. Their first concern was the public’s safety, and he’s sure the public would be more alarmed if nothing had been done. They consistently tell their force that their first and foremost duty is to keep people safe. That’s what the officers were doing, and that’s what they would expect all officers to do. It’s greatly regretted that the officers involved have had their reputations wrongly blemished like this.




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