11/24/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/24/2023 08:08
Almost four years on from the terrorist attack in Streatham High Street, an armed officer who rushed to the scene to save lives has been found not guilty of dangerous driving.
On 2 February 2020 PC Paul Fisher was deployed in response to an urgent call for assistance after two members of the public were stabbed by Sudesh Amman.
On his way to the active terrorist incident PC Fisher and a second police car heard over the radio that lives were in danger, members of the public were seriously injured, and shots had been fired.
PC Fisher was travelling at high-speed as the lead in a two-car armed convoy response under immense pressure to get to the scene. En route he collided with three cars and a garden wall, resulting in injuries to two other drivers.
After a six-day trial at Southwark Crown Court the jury returned a not guilty verdict.
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: "If an officer makes honest mistakes under the most immense pressure while rushing to a live terrorist incident it cannot be right this is dealt with by a criminal trial nearly four years later. That's why the treatment of this brave officer by the systems of accountability is appalling.
"No other country in the world would haul one of its most highly trained officers before a court for responding to one of the most serious incidents we can deal with and doing their utmost to preserve life.
"The driving errors made by PC Fisher were made under the most intense pressure while trying to protect members of the public from a terrorist. The right answer would have been a rapid review of this incident, warnings, re-training and testing. Instead, there have been almost four years of stress.
"I routinely hear from officers who avoid pursuits or indeed even being trained because they know their split-second, pressured decisions will be unpicked over many years. This case further undermines the confidence of all officers using their powers to keep the public safe.
"The system has to change. The alternative is colleagues becoming more scared of an imbalanced and disproportionate system than they are of facing terrorists and criminals intent on attacking communities.
"Officers fully expect to be held accountable for their actions, but they need to know the system holding them to account will be swift, fair, competent, and recognise the split-second decisions made every single day. The current set-up clearly fails those tests.
"I am very grateful the Home Office and Attorney General are conducting a thorough review to find a more appropriate balance for accountability. We will continue to support their officials in any way possible through this process."
An IOPC investigation began in February 2020 into PC Fisher and another armed PC driving the second car in the convoy - which continued to respond to the incident following the collision.
The IOPC submitted a file to the Crown Prosecution Service in May 2021. They agreed to charge PC Fisher with dangerous driving and he appeared in court for his first appearance in August 2022.
The CPS decided no further action should be taken against the other PC.
Both officers were been removed from driving duties pending the outcome of the criminal case. As is normal process at the conclusion of a criminal case we will now liaise with the IOPC on the next steps.