Letter: Banning police pursuits would increase car crime

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The Independent Online
Sir: You report the death of two drivers being followed by police patrol cars in the Bristol area, but expand, in your leading article, to comment generally on police pursuits (4 September). I would point out that 25 per cent of crime in this country is vehicle related. The police, whether we like it or not, have a duty to become involved, from the aspect of traffic enforcement and crime investigation.

The often total disregard for public safety and the reckless manner of the criminals who drive stolen vehicles, whether being followed by the police or not, frequently puts the public in considerable danger. The police have an obligation to do something in these circumstances.

Recently the police service issued clear guidelines that have been adopted by every force in the country. These guidelines give recommendations on how police drivers should conduct a pursuit situation, the management of the incident by control room staff and the option to abandon the pursuit if either the police driver or controller consider that the danger to any person - whether the public, police drivers or the offender - is too great.

This can only be a decision based upon the individual circumstances of each incident. Clearly, the officer involved in a pursuit is often not in a position to know what offence has been committed, or is intended. Any proposal to ban all pursuits is therefore completely impractical, particularly as the vast majority of pursuits are of very short duration, limited risk and without injury.

I suggest that if a proposal to ban all pursuits became common knowledge, criminals and drunken or dishonest drivers would be unlikely ever to stop for police, with obvious consequences to effective law and order.

Yours faithfully,

W. R. GIRVEN

Honorary Secretary

Traffic Committee, Association

of Chief Police Officers

Devizes, Wiltshire

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