Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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Gross misconduct proven against Met officers in pursuit that killed child and his aunt

Two Metropolitan Police officers have had the case proven against them for their actions during and after a police pursuit, which resulted in a fatal collision that killed two pedestrians.  

Following an Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation, PC Edward Welch and former PC Jack Keher faced a disciplinary hearing, which concluded recently (14 June). 

On the afternoon of 31 August 2016, PC Welch was the driver of a marked police car and he pursued a stolen Ford Focus driven by Joshua Dobby, then 19, for six minutes.

We found PC Welch, at one stage of the pursuit, reached 63mph while driving the wrong way along a one-way street which had a 20mph speed limit.

During our investigation we examined police vehicle dashcam footage which showed the cars in the pursuit reached significantly excessive speeds. Towards the end of the pursuit there was heavy traffic and many pedestrians around.

The vehicle driven by Mr Dobby crashed into pedestrians after mounting the pavement in Lennard Road, Penge. 

Makayah McDermott, aged 10, and his aunt Rozanne Cooper, aged 34, were tragically killed. Three girls were also taken to hospital for injuries sustained in the collision. 

A disciplinary panel heard that the officers failed to accurately assess the level of risk that the pursuit posed and did not report this risk back to the control room via radio.  

They also failed to accurately relay the circumstances of the pursuit including the dangerous manner and speed of Mr Dobby’s driving and that PC Welch failed to assess the proportionality of continuing with the pursuit.  

The hearing also heard that after the fleeing vehicle driven by Mr Dobby collided with multiple pedestrians, both officers chased him on foot and apprehended him, failing in their duty to protect lives by not checking whether anyone was injured and failing to prioritise first aid at the scene.  

IOPC regional director Mel Palmer recently said:

“Our thoughts remain with the families of Makayah and Rozanne who sadly lost their lives and to everyone affected by this incident.

“Officers must assess the risks before engaging in a pursuit and continually reassess this throughout. Any pursuit must be proportionate and factor in the surrounding circumstances, including the public safety risk.

“We found that the officers’ actions in pursuing a stolen car at up to three times the speed limit in an area busy with traffic and pedestrians during the school holidays, was not proportionate or justified given the apparent safety risk to the public.

“The officers also failed in their duty of care to protect lives following the collision by chasing the offender rather than immediately going to the aid of the victims.”  

Our investigation looked at whether: 

  • the pursuit was in line with relevant local and national policy, guidance and legislation 
  • the continuance of the pursuit was justified, authorised, proportionate and necessary in the circumstances 
  • PC Welch’s driving, with regards to the conditions and circumstances at the relevant time, was appropriate 
  • the officers’ actions following the collision were appropriate and consistent with national policy, guidance and legislation 
  • the acts or omissions of the officers could have contributed to the death and injury of members of the public. 

On conclusion of our investigation, in August 2017, we decided that the officers should face a gross misconduct hearing for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour relating to duties and responsibilities and discreditable conduct.

After hearing the evidence in relation to the pursuit, a disciplinary panel - led by a legally-qualified chair - found both officers had breached the standards of professional behaviour and that the breaches amounted to misconduct.

The panel also decided the officers breached the police standards of professional behaviour for failing to check whether anyone was injured and failing to prioritise first aid at the scene and that this amounted to gross misconduct.

PC Welch was given a final written warning. While the case was also proven against former PC Keher, the panel decided he would not have been dismissed if still serving so there was no alternative sanction the panel could impose.

As part of our investigation, investigators interviewed both officers, took statements from numerous witnesses, obtained expert evidence from a forensic collision investigator, and reviewed dashcam footage and information from the police car data recorder.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS:

  • Incident happened in August 2016.
  • On conclusion of our investigation in 2017 we referred a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service.
  • In July 2018 the CPS decided not to authorise criminal charges against the officers.
  • The family exercised their Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) and in May 2019, the CPS upheld its original decision.
  • In June 2019 an inquest determined Makayah and Rozanne were unlawfully killed by Joshua Dobby.
  • The CPS then reviewed its previous decisions and on Tuesday, 18 May 2021, authorised the criminal charges. PC Welch was charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving; causing serious injury by dangerous driving; and dangerous driving.
  • Following a trial at the Old Bailey, PC Welch was found not guilty of all charges on 7 December 2022.
  • Disciplinary proceedings for both officers were put on hold until the conclusion of criminal proceedings.

 

Channel website: https://policeconduct.gov.uk/

Original article link: https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/news/gross-misconduct-proven-against-met-officers-pursuit-killed-child-and-his-aunt

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