Two teenage boys who died when the stolen car they were in crashed into a police roadblock in one of the Mersey Tunnels were unlawfully killed, an inquest has decided.
The 14-year-olds died in the crash
Darren Franey and Scott Veach, who were both 14, crashed into a lorry which had been positioned at the Liverpool end of the Wallasey Tunnel by the independent Tunnel Police force in March of last year.
The pair were in one of two high-powered cars which had been stolen from the same address in Chester a short while earlier.
Merseyside coroner Andre Rebello has recommended either the policing of the tunnel should be transferred to Merseyside Police, or tunnel officers should be trained to national policing standards.
Following an investigation by the Merseyside force, the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that five Tunnel Police officers will not face criminal charges, but they are still suspended and face internal disciplinary action.
There may be, rightfully so, a public outrage that these two young lives were wasted in what was a criminal enterprise
Merseyside coroner Andrew Rebello
The two-and-a-half week inquest in Liverpool heard that the first of the stolen cars avoided the roadblock, but the second hit the lorry at up to 100mph.
Mr Rebello said both boys had died breaking the law, but added he doubted they understood the dangers of it.
"There may be, rightfully so, a public outrage that these two young lives were wasted in what was a criminal enterprise," he said.
He said matters revealed during the inquest would cause "public disquiet".
"Mersey Tunnel Police force does not appear to be a police force in a sense that the public understands," he said.
A computer reconstruction of the crash was shown to the jury
"I do not doubt that the officers and their management are dedicated to public service and carry out useful functions.
"But for society in Merseyside and at the Home Office I have to ask the question: 'What Is the function of a police constable?"'
He added he would write to Home Secretary David Blunkett, Merseyside chief constable Norman Bettison and to Neil Scales, the chief executive of Merseytravel, which oversees the tunnel police, to recommend the changes.
"I have to make recommendations which could lead to changes in societies," Mr Rebello said.
Scott and Darren's families welcomed the coroner's recommendations.
They did not want to comment after the verdict, but their solicitor said: "The families are of the hope that good can come out of this tragedy."
Police Complaints Authority deputy chairman Wendy Towers endorsed Mr Rebello's comments.
"All police forces charged with controlling traffic should be trained to the standards set by the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers and the role of Mersey Tunnels Police now needs to be examined," she said, adding she had written to the Home Office to express her concerns.
In a statement Merseytravel passed on its condolences to the boys' families.
It said it would "welcome greater harmonisation of training" with Merseyside Police, but added the Tunnel Police were "an important and highly dedicated organisation".
The statement also criticised the computer reconstruction of the accident, saying it did not provide "a true, complete reconstruction of events".
It added: "This tragic incident must be viewed against approximately 70 years of safe management of the Mersey Tunnels."