Road rage attack sparks fears over violence against police

Horrific and even fatal attacks on officers which see them run down in the road are increasing, the Police Federation has warned.

Andy Berry, the chairman of Devon and Cornwall Police Federation – which represents rank and file officers – spoke out following the jailing of Damien Price last week which saw the release of terrifying dashcam footage of him smashing into Sergeant Alex Howden at an Exeter supermarket.

Price, was jailed for six-and-a-half years at Exeter Crown Court following the incident in March in the Sainsbury’s car park in Pinhoe.

Sgt Howden was flung into the area and flipped over Price’s blue Ford Fiesta after it slammed into him, leaving him with a broken leg, a head injury and bruising. The court heared that his recovery is expected to take more than a year.

The incident followed a recent failed attempt to increase the jail sentences of three young men who were jailed for the manslaughter of Pc Andrew Harper of Thames Valley Police.

Damien Price
Damien Price

The newly-wed officer, 28, suffered devastating injuries as he was dragged to his death behind a car by teenage thieves last August.

The driver of the car, 19-year-old Henry Long, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for manslaughter while his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were handed 13 year terms.

Pc Harper had finished his shift when he responded to reports of a burglary, and his feet became entangled in a tow rope trailing behind the thieves’ car as it sped away.

He was dragged along a windy country lane at terrifyingly high speeds for more than a mile before his badly-injured body eventually came free.

Mr Berry said there was concern amongst police officers regarding incidents where vehicles were used as weapons against them.

Sergeant Alex Howden
(Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)

Speaking of the incident involving Sgt Howden, Mr Berry said: “I don’t think that anyone watching the dash-cam footage for the incident would not be shocked and horrified by the brutality of the attack.

“The use of a vehicle in that way is no different to swinging an axe at a person and in this case we can only be thankful that by chance Sgt Alex Howden was not killed or more seriously injured.”

The court had heard that before smashing into Sgt Howden Price had reversed into the car of a couple in their sixties in a road rage attack, after punching the man in the face. The couple, who had exited their car, were knocked to the ground.

Sgt Howden had just arrived at the scene and was trying to prevent Price from fleeing the car park when Price drove into him.

After the attack, members of the public pulled Price from his vehicle and detained him until he was arrested. He later bit another officer, PC Nicholas Weston, on the arm while in the back of a police car.

Andy Berry, Devon and Cornwall Police Federation Chair
(Image: Devon and Cornwall Police Federation)

Price eventually pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm and dangerous driving. He will also serve five years on licence and be banned from driving for 10 years.

Andy Berry said: “The use of vehicles as weapons, particularly against police, seems to be a growing problem and of course sometimes, in the case of PC Andrew Harper, has deadly consequences.

“Therefore I believe that there should be a review of the law to ensure that courts have sufficient sentencing options to adequately punish offenders who use vehicles in such a way, and permanently restrict their use of vehicles in the future to protect the public.

“Finally I think something else captured on the dashcam footage was the bravery and willingness of the public to run to Sgt Howden’’s assistance and I am so grateful for their actions.”

Following the trial, Sgt Howden praised the members of the public who had helped him. He said: “I genuinely couldn’t have had a better reaction from the people there, who were so kind and considerate. Their immediate actions were incredibly positive.”

Devon Live