UK

Police pursuit laws under review as moped crime soars

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The Home Office is to review the law around police pursuits following a rise in crimes carried out on mopeds.

Police have raised concerns about the potential risk of officers facing charges if a pursuit ends in a crash.

In 2016/17, 28 people died in police pursuit-related incidents.

Policing Minister Nick Hurd said it was vital officers were able to pursue criminals, while the Police Federation of England and Wales hailed the review as a "significant step".

Figures from the end of last year found crime involving the mopeds, scooters and motorbikes had risen by 600% over two years.

Meanwhile, Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) figures show there were 24 police pursuit-related incidents in 2016/17 in which 28 people died - more than double the 13 deaths in 2015/16.

Crimes such as snatch thefts and acid attacks are often conducted on stolen motorbikes or scooters, and ridden by people without helmets.

Skilled officers

The Home Office review will look at whether current arrangements need to be changed to ensure officers who engage in pursuit have the correct legal protections.

"While it is clearly vital that we protect public safety and that officers are accountable for their actions, it is also important that skilled officers have the confidence to protect the public by pursuing offenders where it is safe to do so," Mr Hurd said.

At a motorcycle-related crime forum earlier this month, ministers heard there is a perception among the public and some police officers that the police will not pursue suspected offenders riding vehicles at high speeds.

In addition, there is anecdotal evidence that criminals are deliberately removing - or not wearing - helmets because it is wrongly believed that police will not continue a pursuit if that happens.

The Home Office emphasised that there is no ban on the police pursuing motorcyclists who are not wearing helmets.

Momentum gathering

Currently, the conduct of vehicle pursuits is an operational matter for the police and are set out in the College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice (APP)

The APP states pursuit should only be carried out by "pursuit-trained" drivers where "it is in the public interest to protect life, prevent or detect crime, or to apprehend an offender".

"Staff must discontinue a pursuit as soon as the risk becomes disproportionate to the reasons for undertaking it."

"Motorcycle and quad bike pursuits clearly present higher risks for suspects than conventional vehicle pursuit," the APP states.

But adds: "Where such vehicles are used to facilitate serious crime or used repeatedly as the mode of transport for organised crime groups then, to minimise risk to the public from criminality and to secure public confidence in policing, a pursuit may be justified."

Tim Rogers, from the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "Momentum has been gathering in recent months and this marks a significant step in bringing about the change we feel is necessary.

"Trained professionals are being judged by the same standards as a member of the public in any normal driving situation with no differentiation in law to recognise the professional training emergency response drivers undertake."

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