Gardaí should be exempt from prosecution when “in hot pursuit” of a suspect.
That’s according to Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless, who is bringing forward new legislation aimed at updating laws around the emergency services and dangerous driving.
He told Newstalk Breakfast Gardaí should be allowed to approach “exceptional situations using exceptional means”.
“They already have one eye over the shoulder for the situation they’re about to engage in,” he said. “They don’t need to have the other eye over the shoulder to see are they going to be prosecuted afterwards.”
Deputy Lawless is calling for the Road Traffic Act to be amended so Gardaí and paramedics cannot be prosecuted for “dangerous or careless driving” if they can prove they were responding to an emergency.
He said this is “common law” in countries such as Germany, France, the UK and Canada.
He said he was “struck” when he learned there is no law that gives services such as Gardaí and ambulances “priority” on the road in emergency situations, and drivers only let them pass out of “common convention”.
Gardaí should not be given a “blanket exception”, according to Deputy Lawless, but they should be “free to go about emergency situations”.
“It can't be a carte blanche to do whatever anything that they like,” he said. “It has to be reasonable, it has to be done right.
“Circumstances will differ from case to case in different situations - perhaps that's in the eye of a judge, perhaps that’s in the eye of the DPP, perhaps that’s in the eye of a superintendent.
“But what we can't have is a kind of a chilling effect where Gardaí and other emergency services are basically frozen to the spot and in fear of making the slightest deviation, stopping at every red light.”
Deputy Lawless previously said at a Fianna Fáil parliamentary meeting that the Department of Defence needs to return to “bread and butter issues”.
“We probably need to get back to a focus on law and order – safe streets, tackling crime rates, putting Gardaí recruitment and retention at centre stage,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“There's been a lot of important but slightly niche or fringe issue that have been tackled.”
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