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Police-related road traffic deaths highest for a decade, figures show

The IOPC data for England and Wales, covering 2018/19, shows 42 people were killed in such incidents, up from 40 in 2008/09.

(Peter Byrne/PA)
(Peter Byrne/PA)

By Ryan Hooper, PA Chief Reporter

A total of 42 people died in road traffic incidents involving the police in England and Wales last year, the highest number in a decade, the watchdog has announced.

Figures from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) showed the number represented an increase of 13 on 2017/18 – the previous highest in the last 10 years was 40 deaths in 2008/09, although the highest on record is 48 in 2005/06.

Of these, 27 were men and 15 were women, with 22 of those killed aged 18 to 30, and eight over 60.

Some 30 of those deaths were in police pursuit-related incidents, an increase of 13 on the previous year and the highest since 32 in 2005/06.

The oldest victim of a road traffic incident involving police was a 93-year-old woman pedestrian, who appeared to fall in the road in “very close proximity” to a force van on general patrol.

Elsewhere, the figures showed a total of 16 people died in or following police custody last year, down from a 10-year high of 23 in 2017/18, while three fatal police shootings happened in 2018/19, compared with four the previous year.

Police drivers need to be able to pursue suspects and respond quickly to emergency calls as part of their duty, but it’s not without risk IOPC director-general Michael Lockwood

There were 63 apparent suicides following police custody, up six from the previous year.

Meanwhile, a total of 152 people died in other incidents involving police contact during 2018/19 – down from 175 the previous year.

In total, the watchdog investigated the deaths of 276 people, down from 288 the previous year.

IOPC director-general Michael Lockwood said: “This year we’ve seen a reduction in the number of deaths in or following police custody, with no deaths occurring in a police custody suite itself.

“This reflects the importance of ongoing work, to which we have contributed, to ensure police custody offers as safe an environment as possible.

“However, it is of concern that, again, there is a high proportion of people dying during and immediately after custody who are vulnerable through mental health and links to drugs and alcohol.”

He said the increase in pursuit-related deaths pointed to “a continued need for ongoing scrutiny of this area of policing”.

He said: “Police drivers need to be able to pursue suspects and respond quickly to emergency calls as part of their duty, but it’s not without risk.

“This includes risks not only for the police and the driver of any pursued vehicle, but for passengers, bystanders and other road users.

“Pursued drivers bear responsibility for their own actions but police officers should also take into account risks to the public and only undertake a pursuit where it is safe to do so, and where authorised.”

The figures come on the day Chancellor Sajid Javid launched a national campaign to recruit 20,000 extra police officers.

The IOPC report, published on Thursday, listed a number of deaths which involved police in some capacity.

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(PA Graphics)

A 38-year-old man died after being shot twice by Metropolitan police after contacting them to say he was armed and prepared to fire at officers if they attended the petrol station forecourt he was calling from.

In another case, a 52-year-old man was shot at a home in Birmingham after officers attended suspecting him of possessing a firearm and revenge pornography.

Police entered the property and spoke to the man but he did not come to the door, the IOPC report said. An officer fired a single, fatal, shot and subsequently applied first aid but he died at the scene. A non-police issue firearm was recovered nearby.

Several incidents were road-related.

In one case, two officers pulled alongside a motorcycle after a quick search revealed the owner had an outstanding arrest warrant.

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(PA Graphics)

The motorcyclist then left on two wheels, but officers later came across a road crash involving the rider, who died at the scene.

Elsewhere, officers on patrol in a marked vehicle approached a parked car to ask why it was there, only for the car to drive off at speed.

The car later collided wall, and the driver died in hospital.

Among the people to have died after being taken ill at the scene of arrest was a suspected thief found lying face-down on the floor with a staff member kneeling over him.

The man was arrested but became unwell and later died.

His cause of death was recorded as multiple organ injuries, a heart attack, and restraint in the prone position.

PA

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