‘If we do not tackle this modern-day highway robbery, this is going to spread beyond a pandemic in London to the rest of the country.’
(Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, 5th August 2017)
Increasing numbers of moped muggers are recently stalking the streets of the UK, snatching mobile phones and throwing acid at members of the public and emergency services. Some of the incidents published in the national newspapers are shocking and unbelievable. It is reported that the Police are failing to deter theses offenders due to a strange National guideline/law, which state that the police officers need permission from a senior officer for every pursuit and must consider all risks when suspected moped muggers remove their helmets during a chase..
In this article an attempt will be made to show the limitations of the current rules which are forcing many police officers to let the moped muggers get away, together with recommendations to empower the Police Officers to chase and catch these moped muggers even if they remove their crash helmets during pursuit.
Shocking incidents of mopped crimes
On 3rd August 2017, news regarding moped mugger’s criminal activity published in the national newspapers shocked the whole nation. We have learned from the published news that a group of young moped muggers armed with hammers, knives and a gun stole £1 million worth of mobile phones and tablets in 17 raids on stores across London. The muggers raided three Mobile shops, smashing their way in with a battering ram, broke into the stock room stealing the latest handsets, before escaping on waiting mopeds.
In the 21st century, it is shocking to learn that these criminals armed themselves with weapons including, knives, hammers, and guns, arriving on mopeds and using crash helmets as a disguise, to commit these heinous crimes in mobile phone stores across London.
It is extremely alarming to note that these criminals/moped muggers were and is prepared to use force and also weapons to commit their crime. In one shocking raid at the Three store in Oxford Street, central London, at 2.40am one of the raiders threatened a member of the public with a gun. The others then smashed their way into the store and stole dozens of devices worth £20,000. It is reported that in just over six months the gang stole phones and tablets worth about £1million.
We cannot allow the moped muggers to continue with what appears to be an unstoppable crime wave across the UK. They should be given exemplary punishment under the existing UK law. If caught red handed by the brave police officers, they should be given punishment which would deter the other would be moped muggers to think twice before committing any such crime riding on a moped.
However, there are unfortunately serious limitations in the current rules that actually deter Police Officers from chasing the high-speed moped muggers. As a result, in most of the cases, moped muggers are running away unpunished!
Why current Rules deter Police from chasing?
Under the current rules, any police officer chasing a suspect on a moped has to seek authorisation from their control room. After receiving the request for authorisation, ‘tactical adviser’ will carry out a risk assessment. Then a senior officer has to weigh up the danger of the pursuit against the seriousness of the suspected crime.
During the pursuit, if the rider removes his helmet, under the current rules, a police officer, is not able to chase that moped mugger as most pursuits occur in busy areas such as London, would be considered high risk. The Police officers will end a pursuit if it gets ‘too dangerous’.
Under the current Rules, Police are only allowed to speed and go through red traffic lights in an emergency, but if anyone is hurt, it could land the officer in a criminal court. Due to this strange rule, Police Officers very often give up their endeavour to chase the moped muggers who remove their crash hamlets during the pursuit, as masked suspects often remove their helmets when they ride off at speed
Therefore, we need immediate changes in the existing rules so that the police are able to chase violent moped gangs without fear of prosecution. Due to the strange unfair application of the current rules, police do not give chase in the event that there is an accident and they are blamed for it. They are not exempt from prosecution if someone is hurt as a result of a pursuit.
Greater protection for Police Officers needed
Hence we need greater protection for officers so that they are no longer afraid to risk their career in order to catch these moped robbers. New laws should be introduced to support the Police Officer which will exempt them from prosecution for careless or dangerous driving during pursuits.
Senior Police Officers should publicly back the junior police officers who chase moped muggers. National guidelines, which state permission is needed from a senior officer for every pursuit and must consider all risks to suspects who remove their helmets, should be changed.
The Police Officer chasing the suspect moped muggers should be given independent power to assess the risks when a suspected moped mugger removes his helmets. The Police Officers should be given more independent power to encourage them to chase the suspected moped muggers rather than allowing the riders get away.
With a view to combat moped muggers from the streets of the UK, the Police Officers should be given power to commence pursuit immediately, whether or not suspected moped mugger are wearing a helmet or removing their helmets. This will give confidence to the police to enforce the law again the moped muggers. Police Officers should be given exemption from prosecution for careless or dangerous driving in the pursuits. In order to bring the moped criminals before justice, Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “Police leaders should be supporting officers that pursue mopeds, even when they drive recklessly. We need to tackle this. We want to see clear guidelines saying no action will be taken against an officer who pursues someone who is not wearing a crash helmet”.
In the past 12 months to June, Met Police recorded 16,158 thefts by people using mopeds. To catch moped robbers and bring them before justice with full force of law, not action should be taken against an officer who pursues someone who is not wearing a crash helmet. Rather, that police officer should be honoured for chasing the moped muggers to bring them to justice, even if the mugger is not wearing a crash hamlet. If we fail to tackle this “modern-day highway robbery” committed by a group of moped criminals, this would certainly spread beyond a pandemic in London to the rest of the country. We do not want that to happen. Therefore, police officers should be given full independent power to pursue moped muggers, even when they drive recklessly, in order that they are brought to justice.
* (The writer is a Barrister of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, Chartered Legal Executive Lawyer of CILEX. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org ).