Met police have 21 crashes a week, says repair firm

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The Independent Online

Police cars in London are involved in an average of 21 accidents a week. The company that repairs the vehicles has disclosed that a quarter of police cars have had damage repaired in the past 11 months.

Venson Group, which has the contract to fix vehicles for the Metropolitan Police, said that in the past 11 months it had repaired 1,000. Abel Hadden, of Venson, said: "We're talking about accidents, when the driver has to fill in an accident report form. A normal repair is a worn brake pad or a faulty wing mirror or something. That's not what this is."

In all, Venson has carried out work on 40,000 police vehicles since it won the Metropolitan Police contract, which covers 3,000 of the force's 4,250 vehicles, in April 1998.

Earlier this week Scotland Yard said up to 18,000 police officers were being made to take a new test in an attempt to improve the standard of its drivers. Yesterday a spokesman said: "Unfortunately, accidents do happen, and, while that's regrettable - not excusable - accident figures need to be put into perspective.

"Our drivers cover over 65 million miles each year, responding to well over one and a half million calls from members of the public, and the number of incidents which result in serious injury to members of the public or officers is relatively few."

He added: "It is our duty to safeguard the public and as such we need to arrive at the scene as quickly as possible."

However, critics of the police's accident record have a different perspective on the problem. The broadcaster Sheena McDonald was knocked down by a police van responding to a 999 call on 27 February 1999, was severely injured and returned to work only recently. She said that last year 22 people were killed and more than 1,700 injured by police cars. "That's unacceptable. Outrageous. If any other institution did that there would be an outcry."