Off Yer Bike

Mike Mackey of Burton Copeland comments on the recent news of a Met Police Officer facing the possibility of prosecution following an incident in which a moped rider was knocked down.

Well, that didn’t take long! It was only a matter of week or so ago that the Met announced its new tactic to deal with moped crime. Call it “nudging” or what you will, but it’s really “knock ‘em off the road!”. There’s been someone knocked off his bike and now, perhaps, the wheel’s are falling off for the police.

There’s considerable doubt about the legality of such police action. Certainly the Police Federation are anxious about the legal position of their members conducting this tactic. The police have a duty to prevent crime and to protect the public and their property. However, in general, there is a requirement for action to be proportionate. It’s a question of balance.

Senior officers were happy to appear in public declaring that Cressida Dick was “putting the fear back into the criminal”. She said her officers (was it “Scorpion” teams providing a mobile sting in the moped tail?) were highly trained. Well, that’s alright then, but there’s more to be thought through. It’s a question of balance. On the one hand the acid spraying robber may be an easy shot to call, but what if there’s no “real and present” threat to the public?

What if the justification for unseating the rider is that his driving is a bit dangerous? What if, having been unseated, the hapless youth suffers more than minor injuries? Well, it’s happened so let’s see.

One might hope that in such a situation the senior commanders of the Met, who formulated and trumpeted their initiative, would stand by any of their troops who fell to be criticised, just because they were following instructions. Yes, one may well hope.

It’s not taken long for a press report to appear, which states that an officer is facing the possibility of prosecution following an incident in which he “nudged” a moped rider in the direction of the tarmac.

So why is the officer facing the possibility of prosecution? The answer is that his conduct may be found to amount to an offence of assault or even dangerous driving. The case will doubtless be referred to the so called “Independent Office for Police Conduct”. Ask any serving officer and you’ll be told just how highly the police regard this particular creation of the Home Office.

IOPC will need to take a view on whether, in all the circumstances, the officer’s actions were reasonable and a lawful exercise of his duty as a police officer.

Unfortunately, that’s the rub.

Whatever the recommendation IOPC, the decision as to whether to prosecute rests with CPS, who will consider whether there’s sufficient evidence to prosecute and, equally importantly, whether a prosecution is in the public interest.

There are those who would hope that, in the absence of reckless and totally unjustified conduct on the part of an officer, whilst there may have been an error of judgement, it cannot be in the public interest to prosecute an officer following instruction – even if in a mistaken manner.

We’ll see.

Mike Mackey - Burton Copeland

Mike Mackey is the former Senior and Managing partner at Burton Copeland and now remains a consultant of the firm. To read more about Mike and the work that he does, you can read his full profile is here.