Some recent events may have led you to believe that there's one rule for some, and one rule for the rest of us!
- A car carrying Jack Straw (the then Home Secretary) and driven by his police driver was stopped by Avon & Somerset Constabulary for speeding - at in excess of 100 mph.
- The CPS has decided not to prosecute the police driver.
Possible explanations for the decision not to prosecute include:
- There was insufficient evidence that the speed limit was exceeded.
- The police driver was ordered to drive in excess of the speed limit by his superior (the Home Secretary).
- The police driver really did believe, as he's reported to have claimed, that he believed that there was a threat to the Home Secretary and/or himself.
- There's one rule for some, and one rule …
So how would each of those explanations stand up to scrutiny?
- It's not exactly credible that the evidence of speeding was inadequate. 100 mph is a long way over the 70 mph speed limit and, as our own case shows, all that's needed is the police officer's evidence based on his own speedometer reading. If he didn't have that evidence, would he have stopped the car in the first place?
- If the driver knew that what he was ordered to do was illegal, then it wouldn't be a defence in itself to claim that he was "only obeying orders". In fact if it was the case that he was ordered to break the law, then the person doing so (which in this example would be the Home Secretary) would himself be guilty of a criminal offence - and a much more serious one than speeding. A good example of this is the Hillsborough disaster - the senior officers in the control room (who gave the order to open the gates) were prosecuted, not the officers who actually opened them.
- The only other option would be to justify breaking the law as being necessary to prevent some greater harm - for example if there was a threat to life. A reasonable person might expect that the driver would have taken some other action if he really thought this was the case. Radio for assistance? Attempt to outrun his pursuer (surely a trained police driver ought to be able to manage more than 100 mph)?
- Many ordinary people might think that there's ample evidence that this is the way the world of government actually works!
In the actual case in which the Home Secretary's car was stopped, perhaps the "threat to life" explanation was the reason. In this case, we'd like to offer that particular driver free expert opinion on his traffic video. We're sure that the traffic video would have recorded some exceptional defensive driving on the part of the police officer in ensuring that the Home Secretary's life wasn't put at risk.
For an update on this case, there is an article on the BBC News website.