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Britain’s top cop defends controversial moped gang ramming tactics

A police driver is facing a criminal investigation after knocking a moped yob off his scooter following a chase through London.  

The 17-year-old criminal suffered head and foot injuries when he was knocked off a moped in Erith, in the south east of the capital, last November.

The youth later admitted a series of offences, but the officer too faces potential ABH charges or an internal misconduct hearing over the manner in which the criminal was stopped.

The case, which is being examined by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), will raise fears among police that they will not be protected from legal action after using the Met’s new ‘tactical contact’ method of tackling scooter gangs.

But, speaking on LBC radio this morning, Met Police Commissioner backed the use of the technique, insisting cases where complaints were raised are extremely rare.

A Met Police officer is being investigated for knocking a moped criminal off his bike. File photo

But Commissioner Cressida Dick has defended the method, insisting police are well trained and complaints are rare

But Commissioner Cressida Dick has defended the method, insisting police are well trained and complaints are rare

The officer in Erith has been interviewed under caution by the IOPC after a 17-year-old moped rider, who was not wearing a helmet, was knocked down last year, The Guardian reported.

The criminal, who had led police on a chase from Kent into south-east London, needed three days of hospital for treatment to a head injury and a broken foot.

He later admitted attempted theft, interference with a vehicle, driving with no licence, driving with no insurance and dangerous driving.

The IOPC said it will inform the officer whether they face charges ‘within weeks’.

The watchdog confirmed it is also investigating a second tactical contact case involving another Metropolitan Police officer, which featured an adult moped rider in Ealing, west London, in March.

Moped robbers turn attention to suburbs  

The police crackdown on moped yobs may have pushed the gangs into the suburbs, crime figures suggest.

Inner-city areas of London, such as Westminster, Islington and Camden, have seen cuts in moped-enabled crimes as police deploy new tactics including ‘tactical contacts’ and stingers.

But suburban areas of the capital, including Sutton, Harrow and Ealing have witness dramatic increases in crime over the same period, analysis by The Times shows.

The number of moped related crimes increased by more than 700% in Hillingdon and 629% in Harrow, in the north-west of the capital, 263% in Bexley and 191% in Greenwich in the south-east.

The second case is not a criminal investigation. 

Speaking about the issue this morning, Met Commissioner Ms Dick said: ‘We have had 650 pursuits, 63 have resulted in tactical contact, of those a very, very small figure have resulted in either the person being injured and/or a complaint about the officer. Officers have been commended by judges for this. 

‘If someone complains about it, there will be an investigation… it’s in the nature of policing that we take risks.’

Ms Dick said she had been shocked at how ‘anarchic’ moped gangs were ‘sticking two fingers up at the police and having a lot of fun’ during crime sprees when she first took the post.

She insisted that tactical contact and other methods had cut the problem, with 7,000 fewer victims of theft by moped robbers this year.

The Commissioner said police officers were prepared to take the risk in bringing down yobs in order to the protect the public and they were well trained to reduce the chance of injury.

An investigation was launched after moped yob was knocked off his bike in Erith last year

An investigation was launched after moped yob was knocked off his bike in Erith last year

The method has been criticised by Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott

The method has been criticised by Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott

What is police guidance on ‘tactical contact’? 

Police said guidance on the use of vehicles in stopping mopeds is similar to that surrounding the use of force by officers on foot.

Officers are told they can only use force when it is ‘absolutely necessary, reasonable and proportionate’.

Police car drivers have to keep this in mind when deciding whether to crash into a fleeing moped mugger.

Whereas police may have been more reluctant to chase robbers without helmets in previous years, the spike in moped crime has concentrated the minds of Scotland Yard chiefs.

More training for ‘scorpion’ drivers and the increasingly dangerous tactics used by muggers has led to the method being more widely used.

An IOPC spokesman said: ‘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.

‘If it is – for example, as we saw at Westminster and Borough Market – then our investigations treat the officers as witnesses throughout and their conduct is not in question.

‘But it would be wrong to offer guarantees in every case. Independent scrutiny is a vital part of public confidence in the way policing is done.’

Senior officers have defended the use of tactical contact, saying it was needed to stop dangerous chases and has helped reduce moped-enabled crime in London by more than a third.

The manoeuvre has also been backed by Prime Minister Theresa May, who said a ‘robust’ response was needed from police to what she described as a growing problem of people using mopeds to commit crimes such as bag- and phone-snatching.

But Labour has raised concerns about the approach, which shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said was ‘potentially very dangerous’.


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