Moped muggers are stalking our streets, snatching mobile phones and throwing acid at members of the public and emergency services. Some of the incidents reported in the press are shocking. It is reported that the police are failing to deter these offenders due to a rule which states that officers need permission from a senior officer for every pursuit and must consider all risks when suspected moped muggers remove their helmets.
‘If we do not tackle this modern-day highway robbery, this is going to spread beyond a pandemic in London to the rest of the country.’
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, 5 August 2017
Any police officer chasing a suspect on a moped has to seek authorisation from their control room. After receiving the request for authorisation, a ‘tactical adviser’ will carry out a risk assessment. Then a senior officer has to weigh up the danger of the pursuit against the seriousness of the suspected crime.
During the pursuit, if the rider removes his helmet a police officer is not able to chase that moped mugger as most pursuits occurring in busy areas such as London would be considered high-risk. The police officers will end a pursuit if it gets ‘too dangerous’.
Moreover, police are only allowed to speed and go through red traffic lights in an emergency, and if anyone is hurt this could land the officer in court. Officers very often give up the chase when moped muggers remove their helmets during the pursuit.
We therefore need greater protection for police officers - they must be exempted from prosecution for careless or dangerous driving in pursuits.
Senior police officers should publicly back the junior police officers who chase moped muggers. National guidelines, which state police need permission from a senior officer for every pursuit and must consider all risks to suspects who remove their helmets, should be changed.
There should be a clear guidance to confirm that no action will be taken against an officer who pursues someone who is not wearing a crash helmet. And the police officer chasing the suspect should be empowered to assess the risks and act accordingly.
M. A. Muid Khan is a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn and chartered legal executive. He won the CILEx President’s Award 2016