Stoke Newington police chase put people at risk, court hears

Police flashing lights.

A teenager has been stabbed and a noxious substance has caused injuries to his face at an incident in Lower Clapton. - Credit: Met Police

A Stoke Newington police chase which resulted in the death of 18-year-old moped driver Lewis Johnson "fell far below" the safety levels expected, prosecutors have argued in court. 

The fatal collision occurred after police officer Paul Summerson, 44, pursued Mr Johnson and his pillion passenger, Louis Kyriacou, 18, through Stoke Newington on the morning of February 9, 2016. 

Mr Johnson was killed and Mr Kyriacou seriously injured after a van on Clapton Common Road hit their moped and sent it into a traffic light pole.

The prosecution’s case is that Summerson’s flashing lights and siren caused the van to move suddenly, and that his pursuit was too close behind.

Jonathan Sandiford QC told Kingston Crown Court on Monday (October 11): “The defendant was in control of his vehicle and he drove it in pursuit of this moped.

“The prosecution say the way in which he chose to drive his vehicle fell far below what was to be expected of the careful and competent driver.

“Careful competent motorists do not pursue each other around busy streets of north London at high speed weaving in and out of traffic.”

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He added that although Summerson has been described as a “well thought-of policeman” and “a family man”, his motives are “irrelevant” if his driving put people at risk.

Speaking about Mr Johnson, Mr Sandiford said: “The other people who were just going about their daily lives – pedestrians at the side of the roads, people driving their cars, riding their bicycles, doing all the normal things – they all had an interest in not being exposed to the risk created by this defendant’s dangerous driving and the risk created by him choosing to carry on that pursuit right through the midst of them.”

Speaking about Mr Johnson, he added: “Young men can be bad, young men can be oblivious to the risk that they create, and young people can be imbued with that invincible feeling of risk.

“The public could not rely on Lewis Johnson to stop that day, but they should have been able to rely on an experienced police officer like PC Paul Summerson to prevent the risk.”

Defending, Alisdair Williamson QC, described Summerson as an “excellent long-serving police officer” who was driving “carefully and competently” within the standards expected of an emergency services worker.

He told the court: “It is not an offence to do your duty and to do your best in a dangerous and difficult job.

“It is not an offence any more than it is an offence for the ambulance man who speeds to save a child or the fire engine hurtling to the scene of a burning home.

“All driving involves risks. The only way we can eliminate the risks of driving is if we all stay at home, is if we let the city burn, let the patient die and let the suspect go.”

He added that the fact CCTV footage of the chase did not feature alarmed onlookers shows his driving did not seem out of the ordinary for a police chase, and responsibility for the crash lies with the teenage moped driver.

Mr Williamson said: “Mr Johnson’s death is a tragedy, but he rode that day in complete and utter disregard for the safety of himself and everybody else he came across, and he did so before PC Summerson was on the scene.

“He could not give a thought for the lives of anyone else on the scene.”

Police believed Mr Johnson and Mr Kyriacou were involved in a “smash and grab” theft of a mobile phone in the area.

During the chase both vehicles reached speeds of more than 50mph as they weaved in and out of traffic, with the police BMW briefly on the wrong side of the road while the moped mounted a footpath.

Summerson previously told the court he stayed close to the moped to protect it and that he felt “absolutely devastated” by the incident.

The Metropolitan Police officer, of Alexander Court, Colchester, denies one count of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

The trial continues.