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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Police crash deaths 'far too high'
Police car
Watchdogs want tighter rules for police chases
The number of deaths caused by crashes involving police cars has fallen significantly but is still "far too high", according to the Police Complaints Authority.

It said that over the last year the number of people killed in police chases fell from 42 to 31, adding "the trend may now have begun to move in the right direction".

But the PCA also pointed out the number was still far greater than in 1997-98, when nine people were killed.

In its last annual report before handing over to a new body, the police watchdog said there was "considerable public concern" about the deaths and called on chief constables to do more to improve safety.

Safety grounds

According to the PCA figures, 16 of those people killed were the drivers of the cars being pursued by police.

A further seven were passengers in the cars being followed.

Two pedestrians who were killed during a police chase and a further six were in other cars that were not being followed.

We endorse ACPO's suggestion to have tactical advisers and ground commanders for pursuits that last more than just a few more minutes
Police Complaints Authority

One of the drivers whose death is still under investigation was 19-year-old Paul Bowen, who lost his life after a car chase on the Isle of Wight.

"Hampshire Constabulary officers had tried to stop him, using a 'stinger' device to deflate the car tyres," the report said.

"Mr Bowen was able to drive on and over 100 metre high cliffs into the sea where he drowned."

It also highlighted the case of Christopher and Anne Mallet, who died on Christmas Day when their car was hit by a BMW being driven without lights. The driver of the BMW also died.

The PCA said: "A Lincolnshire police vehicle had tried to stop the BMW and pursued it until the car left street lighting and the pursuit was called off on the grounds of safety."

Over the past year the PCA has also supervised investigations into 17 crashes that caused serious injury but not death.

Tactical advisers

The report called on police forces to do more to tighten up the rules regarding police chases, to "remove the ambiguities which make them less effective".

In particular it wanted to see an end to the "poorly defined distinction between a 'pursuit' and a follow'".

It said that a pursuit could only be carried out by trained drivers in marked cars, but that in some forces a follow could involve any driver in any car, whether or not it was suitable.

But the PCA did welcome the Association of Chief Police Officers' decision to improve driver training.

"We endorse ACPO's suggestion to have tactical advisers and ground commanders for pursuits that last more than just a few more minutes," it said.

Inquiry after fatal police chase
11 May 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset

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