Met Police officers are at risk of prosecution if they knock moped thieves off their vehicles, despite statements from the Home Office suggesting otherwise.
One officer is currently under investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for forcing a man off a moped in Ealing in March this year, resulting in the suspect breaking his leg. Another officer could face criminal charges for knocking a driver off a moped in January last year; the suspect suffered several injuries including a broken foot and head trauma. He would later plead guilty to several offences, including theft and dangerous driving.
“Tactical contact”, as it is known, was first introduced by the Met Police in October 2017. Earlier this year, the Home Office said that it wanted to smash the myth that police officers were responsible for the actions of criminals; last month, the Met Police announced that drivers who didn’t wear helmets would still be subject to tactical contact. Commander Amanda Pearson said in a statement that no moped thief was safe from being targeted:
Our highly trained police drivers weigh up the risks and decide upon the most appropriate tactics in those circumstances. Offenders on mopeds and motorcycles who attempt to evade the police are making a choice that puts themselves and others at risk. So our message is clear: we can, we will and we do target those involved in moped and motorcycle crime at every opportunity.
However, these cases in the system seem to suggest otherwise. Ken Marsh, chairman of the Met Police Federation, warned that the law would not protect officers who used this method:
Senior ministers have endorsed this tactic, but they need to put their words into action and give police officers the protection they deserve when they use it, otherwise it is just hollow words. The public want this approach used and politicians tell them to do it, but it’s going to end up with my officers gripping the rail of the dock because they have stopped someone in this way.
Retired police officer Norman Brennan also backed up the officers, arguing any investigation should be speedy:
Officers using this tactic are trained to the highest standards and the law should exonerate them as soon as an investigation has been completed. That investigation should also be carried out as quickly as possible because they put officers under intense stress merely for having carried out their duties.
Yet the IOPC said it has to investigate the claims against the officers in question:
Ultimately no police tactic can ever be used with impunity in a country where we police by consent – be that tactical contact, the use of firearms or the use of restraint. It is always a matter of whether it’s reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances. Independent scrutiny is a vital part of public confidence in the way policing is done.
About Ciaran Murray
Ciaran Murray is the Founder of Sabre’s Edge Media.