Met officers breached 'professional standards' during fatal Hackney chase

Paul Summerson, 43, appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court. Picture: Met Police

A Met policeman and former officer have been found to have breached "professional standards" during a fatal high-speed chase - Credit: Archant

A Metropolitan police officer has been found to have breached “professional standards” during a pursuit in Hackney which led to a young man’s death.

Misconduct findings were released by police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), on March 14.

The findings follow 44-year-old police constable Paul Summerson's acquittal after being charged with causing the death of moped rider Lewis Johnson during a high speed chase through Stoke Newington.

PC Paul Summerson, 44, was prosecuted over the three-minute pursuit of Lewis Johnson, 18, and his pillion passenger Louis Kyriacou, 19, which took place in 2016. 

A jury found him not guilty in October 2021.

However, a disciplinary panel led by an independent, legally qualified chair, decided on March 4 that PC Summerson had breached “police professional standards of behaviour relating to duties and responsibilities and orders and instructions”.

Misconduct was found proven against PC Paul Summerson and former officer Richard Lappin over their actions during the pursuit on February 9, 2016.

The investigation found that as Mr Johnson’s moped was undertaking a van in Clapton Common, the driver’s helmet clipped the door mirror.

He subsequently lost control and he and his passenger hit a traffic light pole.

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Despite first aid being provided by police and paramedics, Mr Johnson died at the scene, while his passenger suffered serious injuries.

The disciplinary panel found he had asked to be assigned to the incident when not qualified to pursue motorcycles, started a pursuit when not qualified to do so and failed to seek authority to continue the pursuit.

The panel decided he should face no sanction.

Former police sergeant Lappin supervised the pursuit from the control room.

The panel described his actions as misconduct, with an IOPC report stating: “He had been unaware of the level of training officers required in order to pursue motorcycles because he had failed to familiarise himself with the force’s updated standard operating procedure.”

The panel also decided he had breached the standards relating to duties and responsibilities and he received no sanction.

Former police sergeant Paul Gibb, the driver of another vehicle involved in the pursuit, was also investigated. He was found to have joined the pursuit when not qualified, failed to seek authority and continued without authority.

The allegations were found proven but the panel decided there was no breach of the professional standards.

Several allegations made against officers were also found to be not proven.

The hearing, which began on February 21, was arranged by the Metropolitan Police Service.

IOPC regional director for London, Sal Naseem, said: “Our thoughts remain with Mr Johnson’s family and friends. Emergency response drivers are under significant pressure to respond to ongoing incidents in a timely way to protect life, prevent or detect crime, or to apprehend an offender.

“It is vital, however, that police pursuits are undertaken in a safe manner."

Although, Mr Naseem said the IOPC recognises that the pursuit "was a challenging and fast-moving situation". 

Following the IOPC’s investigation, which concluded in May 2017, and prior to PC Summerson's trial, the watchdog sent a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider charges against PC Summerson.

The CPS decided to take no further action but the rider’s family exercised their right for a victim’s right to review (VRR).

After the CPS confirmed their original decision, it was overturned following a judicial review and PC Summerson was charged with causing death by dangerous driving with the jury finding him not guilty of the offence. 

During the IOPC's own investigation it obtained witness accounts, reviewed CCTV footage, dashcam footage, police radio transmissions and police logs.

The watchdog also assessed policy and guidance documents relating to police pursuits and tactical contact, while also considering evidence from a collision investigator, as well as forensic vehicle examiners.