One afternoon in 2016, two police officers were driving in Penge, South London, when they identified a stolen Ford Focus in front of them. The Police driver activated his lights and sirens but the driver of the stolen car chose not to stop and accelerated in a dangerous manner.
What happened next was a mad chase with speeds over 100kph in residential roads, through red lights and driving the wrong way down one way streets. It could only end badly, and tragically it did end: the car thief lost control and killed two people.
Before the chase the thief posed no threat to members of the public; it was clearly the irresponsible action of the police officers which caused the crash. The chase lasted 6 minutes, over 6 km. Any professional driver would have been in no doubt that the chase was extremely dangerous and that the danger created by the chase was totally disproportionate to the threat that the thief constituted before the fateful encounter.
It is difficult to understand how anyone could argue that the police driver and his companion are not guilty of causing the death of two innocent people. Indeed one year after the crash, the Independent Police Complaints Commission sent the folder of its investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service. The latter decided to drop the charges against the navigator (even though there is no evidence he tried to stop his companion) but went ahead prosecuting the driver
Interestingly, following the incident, the Police Federation started to lobby for a licence to kill:
The Police Federation has held several meetings with ministers over the proposal to exempt pursuit drivers from prosecution for dangerous or careless driving – providing they have followed their training.
The car thief was duly convicted of two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Six years after the crash, the case against the police driver finally came to court
The Prosecutor case:
“On any sensible analysis the risk posed by the pursuit, taking account of the driving of both vehicles, was at a higher level of risk,
“PC Welch engaged in a chase where to do so was inappropriate, and, more importantly, persisted in that chase when it should have been clear that this was disproportionate and posed a clear risk to other road users and pedestrians.
“This was not a police officer heading to an emergency, let alone an emergency involving a risk to life.
“Rather, all he wanted to do was to speak to the driver.”
The jury disagreed and acquitted the police officer
Yet another case that shows that road crime should not be tried by jury.