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Police chase in Fife more suited to ‘racetrack’ court hears

Police officer Jack Brownlee was not trained to engage in the tactical phase of a police pursuit.

Jack Brownlee.
Jack Brownlee.

A police officer who hit speeds of more than 100mph while chasing an uninsured driver through Fife was carrying out moves more suited to a racetrack, Scotland’s top road policing officer has told a court.

Jack Brownlee carried out a number of “high risk” moves as he followed the motorist on a circular route for around 20 minutes in Levenmouth, ending in Methil.

The pursuit took the vehicles off-road and through residential areas, forcing others to a halt.

During the chase Brownlee, who was not trained in tactical pursuit, cut the corners of bends on the wrong side of the road, raced through a red light at roadworks and drove too close to the suspect vehicle, a court heard.

Brownlee, 29, who is believed to have left the force, is on trial charged with driving recklessly and assaulting one of the occupants of the suspect vehicle at the chase’s conclusion on Toboggan Road.

He denies the charges.

Not trained for pursuit

Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard Brownlee should have swapped seats with his more highly-trained colleague, who was in the passenger seat and the pursuit of the Seat car should have been called off at an earlier stage.

The court was shown dashcam footage from the police vehicle, showing the cars racing through the streets of Methil at high speed.

Inspector Colin Reid, head of driver training for Police Scotland said Brownlee was trained to “intermediate” level, which allowed him to drive during the initial phase of a pursuit but lacked the advanced driver training needed to bring it to an end.

Jack Brownlee at court.

He said Brownlee’s partner, PC Michael Rodgers should have taken the wheel of the BMW X5 and the pursuit should have been ended due to the erratic driving of the suspect vehicle.

He said: “The Police Scotland standard operating procedure is quite clear on this – where they are not an authorised and appropriately trained, the driver must stop and swap seats at the earliest and safest opportunity.

“There’s no exception to that… as hard as that might be for people to accept, you have to put safety first.

“If the subject vehicle is lost to sight then so be it.”

‘Red mist’

Inspector Reid gave his opinion on the standard of driving displayed by Brownlee.

He said: “Pursuits are inherently dangerous.

“As soon as you get above the speed limit the risk increases.

“The level of risk taking (by Brownlee) is very high.

“The driver (in the suspect car) is taking more risks to avoid capture.

“The manner of driving by PC Brownlee is mirroring the suspect vehicle – that’s not what we teach.”

He described Brownlee cutting the apex of a bend as being a “collision risk”, adding: “It works very well on a race track but not very well on the roads.”

He added Brownlee may have been blinkered by his focus on the chase.

He said: “I think when PC Brownlee was driving he suffered from red mist.

“He’s focusing solely on the other vehicle and is unable to see or assess other risks outside the vehicle.

“Red mist is a psychological state of mind where the driver is obsessed with an objective.”

Assault allegation

The court also heard from a man who was in the rear of the vehicle being pursued, who told of his terror after he was allegedly beaten with a baton by Brownlee.

James Smith said he was an unwilling participant in the chase and became stuck in the vehicle when the driver, who cannot be named for legal reasons, stopped and ran off.

The 22-year-old said he was left severely bruised after being pulled from the car and hit across the legs by Brownlee.

The court previously heard from a former colleague of PC Brownlee, retired road policing officer Michael Greig, who said there was no need to strike Mr Smith as he was being compliant.

The Crown evidence in the trial finished this week and it was put off until the end of the month, when defence evidence can be presented.

PC Brownlee is charged with driving culpably and recklessly to the danger of others on various roads in the Levenmouth area on April 7 2021.

It is said he repeatedly accelerating and travelling at speeds grossly in excess of the limits while travelling very closely to the car in front.

Brownlee is also accused of assaulting James Smith by striking him repeatedly on the body with a baton to his injury.

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