Misconduct found following death of moped rider after pursuit

15 Mar 2022 12:45 PM

Misconduct was found proven against a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officer and a former officer over their actions during a pursuit in Hackney which led to the death of moped rider Lewis Johnson.

We investigated Police Constable (PC) Paul Summerson and Richard Lappin over their actions during the three-minute pursuit which led to the death of Lewis Johnson on 9 February 2016.

Our investigation found evidence that as the moped, ridden by Mr Johnson, was undertaking a van in Clapton Common, E8, the driver’s helmet clipped the door mirror causing the driver to lose control and he and his passenger hit a traffic light pole. Despite first aid being provided by police and paramedics, Mr Johnson sadly died at the scene, while his passenger suffered serious injuries.

A disciplinary panel led by an independent, legally qualified chair, decided on Friday 4 March that PC Summerson had breached the police professional standards of behaviour relating to duties and responsibilities and orders and instructions.

The panel found allegations against him proven at misconduct level that he asked to be assigned to the incident when not qualified to pursue motorcycles; started the pursuit of the motorcycle when not qualified to do so; and failed to seek authority to continue the pursuit.

Case was also proven against the allegations that he continued with the pursuit without authority; continued the pursuit after the motorcycle had mounted the pavement and ridden on the wrong side of the road; and failed to terminate the pursuit before it ended in a collision. However, the panel did not find a breach of professional standards for these allegations.

Case was not proven for allegations that PC Summerson failed to inform the control room that the motorcycle rode on the pavement on two occasions and that accordingly, the level of risk had increased; followed the motorcycle on the wrong side of the road when it was unsafe to do so; and drove too close to the motorcycle, putting pressure on the rider and reducing the time available for PC Summerson to react.

The panel decided he should face no sanction.

Former PS Lappin supervised the pursuit from the control room and misconduct was found proven that he had been unaware of the level of training officers required in order to pursue motorcycles because he had failed to familiarise himself with the force’s updated standard operating procedure.

The panel decided he had breached the standards relating to duties and responsibilities and he received no sanction.

They found he had not breached the standards relating to orders and instructions for failing to end the pursuit by police drivers who were not appropriately qualified; failing to confirm the level of training of the police drivers conducting the pursuit; failing to properly monitor and manage the level of risk during the pursuit; and failing to call off the pursuit when communications were poor and information was unclear.

We also investigated former PS Paul Gibb who was the driver of another vehicle involved in the pursuit and joined when not qualified to do so; failed to seek authority to join or continue the pursuit; and continued with the pursuit in the absence of authority to continue.

These allegations were found proven but the panel decided there was no breach of the professional standards relating to orders and instructions or duties and responsibilities.

An allegation that he failed to end the pursuit before it ended in a collision was not proven and he received no sanction.

We directed the MPS to arrange the hearing, which started on 21 February.

IOPC Regional Director for London, Sal Naseem, yesterday said:

“Our thoughts remain with Mr Johnson’s family and friends. Emergency response drivers are under significant pressure to respond to ongoing incidents in a timely way to protect life, prevent or detect crime, or to apprehend an offender.

“It is vital, however, that police pursuits are undertaken in a safe manner. Although we recognise this was a challenging and fast-moving situation, the evidence from our investigation indicated that PC Summerson had started the pursuit when not qualified to do so.

“And former PS Lappin, working in the control room, was the supervisor with overall control of the pursuit and had failed to familiarise himself with his force’s updated standard operating procedures, which all officers must be aware of and comply with.”

Following our investigation, which concluded in May 2017, we sent a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider charges against PC Summerson.

The CPS decided to take no further action and the rider’s family exercised their right for a victim’s right to review (VRR). After the CPS confirmed their original decision, it was overturned following a judicial review and PC Summerson was charged with causing death by dangerous driving. A jury found him not guilty in October 2021.

During our investigation, IOPC investigators obtained witness accounts, reviewed CCTV footage, dashcam footage, police radio transmissions and police logs. We examined policy and guidance documents relating to police pursuits and tactical contact. The IOPC also considered evidence from a collision investigator, as well as forensic vehicle examiners.