Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
Recommendations accepted by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Metropolitan Police Service following our investigation into a fatal incident in Eltham, south London
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) have accepted learning recommendations as a result of an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into the circumstances surrounding a road traffic incident in which Robert and Shirley Wigzell died.
We recommended the NPCC considers how the use of life hammers is monitored and that they are replaced when necessary. Life hammers are used by officers who may become trapped in their vehicles and need to break the windows in order to escape. The instruments become blunt and ineffective over time.
We also recommended that officers receive training on using life hammers and what alternatives may be more effective. We also recommended forces consider obtaining equipment that officers can use to break all kinds of windows, including laminated ones.
The NPCC will now write to all Chief Constables in England and Wales advising them to consider our recommendations. We made the same recommendations to the MPS which accepted one learning recommendation concerning officer training on life hammers.
Mr and Mrs Wigzell died following a road traffic incident in Eltham, on Saturday, 23 February, 2019. MPS officers had been pursuing a van which then collided with the couple’s car. Following a referral from the MPS we began an investigation which found the pursuit of the van lasted approximately 30 seconds. After the incident, an officer used a life hammer to try to break the Wigzell’s car window but owing to the vehicle having laminated windows it did not work. The officer then used his baton to gain entry to the vehicle. Mr and Mrs Wigzell sadly died at the scene. A pathologist found no evidence to indicate the delay in getting into the Wigzell’s car contributed to their death. A 41-year-old man was subsequently sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
Regional Director Sal Naseem yesterday said:
“Our thoughts and sympathies remain with the family and friends of Mr and Mrs Wigzell and all those affected by the events on that February evening.
“This was a tragic event and our investigation concluded officers acted appropriately during the pursuit and made every attempt to assist Mr and Mrs Wigzell at the scene.
“As part of our investigation, we identified, on a national level, there was an absence of guidance surrounding the use of life hammers, specifically in relation to officer training and replacing the kit when they become ineffective.
“I am pleased the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Metropolitan Police Service have accepted these recommendations and hope this will bring about change.”
During our investigation we obtained and examined written accounts from the officers involved and members of the public who witnessed the aftermath of the incident. Investigators gathered expert reports, reviewed body-worn camera and dash-camera footage and assessed relevant MPS policies and procedures.
In August 2019 we concluded our investigation when we passed a copy of our report and findings to the MPS. We were satisfied the pursuit was justified, necessary and proportionate in the circumstances and carried out in line with relevant national and local policies and procedures. Our investigation did not find any evidence of misconduct.
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