Should the police be allowed to knock criminals off bikes?
By Joe Harker
Police cracking down on thieves using mopeds and motorbikes will be allowed to ram criminals off their vehicles. The Daily Mirror reports that certain officers are being trained to knock criminals off their bikes and that has contributed to a 44 per cent reduction in bike related crime in London. Most officers have special sprays to tag thieves and their vehicles but certain ones have the authority to ram criminals off their bikes, even though it would likely cause them injury.
Moped thieves ride along the pavement and snatch items away from pedestrians, with mobile phones being the most common possession stolen. Some of these robberies turn violent and the police have decided to take a hardline approach to the criminals. Officers have to carry out a risk assessment before they conduct what is described as a "controlled stop" but we would recognise as ramming them off their bike.
Officers are encouraged to use the tactic as a last resort due to the risk of injury. They are also trying to debunk the idea that police will stop pursuing criminals on bikes if they remove their helmet. Some believe that a rider without a helmet wouldn't be stopped by officers due to the higher risk of head injury, but that is not the case.
Prime minister Theresa May has backed harsher tactics for dealing with thieves in light of released footage showing officers knocking suspects off their bikes. There has been some controversy about the footage and the police have said that some of the people knocked off have suffered broken bones. Nevertheless, May said the approach was "absolutely right" and praised the police for their work in lowering Moped crime.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbot was less positive on the idea, calling it "potentially very dangerous" and arguing that ramming a person off their vehicle "shouldn't be legal for anyone". The Labour front bencher insisted that police weren't above the law and opposes the idea.
The Daily Telegraph reports that police officers could face prosecution if they knock a suspect off their bike during a pursuit, even if they have received training and carried out a risk assessment according to procedure.
Ken Marsh, chair of the Met Police Federation, said the public backed the tactic but politicians needed to ensure officers had legal protection. He said: "Senior ministers have endorsed this tactic, but they need to put their words into action and give police officers the protection they deserve when they use it, otherwise it is just hollow words.
"The public want this approach used and politicians tell them to do it, but it's going to end up with my officers gripping the rail of the dock because they have stopped someone in this way."