Officers cleared of 2009 pursuit death due to `unavoidable` delays

Two officers who have been under investigation over the death of a motorist eight years ago will not be disciplined after “unexplained delays” meant it was not possible to have a balanced hearing.

Nov 2, 2017

Two officers who have been under investigation over the death of a motorist eight years ago will not be disciplined after “unexplained delays” meant it was not possible to have a balanced hearing. On Thursday (November 2) Police Constable John Willis and Inspector Mandy Chamberlain of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) were informed that a fair process was not possible due to the long period of time that had passed between the incident and the misconduct hearing. Commander Ivan Balhatchet, chair of the meeting, determined that due to the “unprecedented and unexplained” delays in the investigation, there was a significant prejudice to both officers in having a fair and balanced hearing. On July 8, 2009, 17-year-old Liam Albert was being pursued from Merton, south-west London into Surrey. His vehicle was involved in a collision in Esher and he subsequently died of his injuries. PC Willis was accused of failing to install the relevant ProVida in-car video system, failing to provide an appropriate commentary of the pursuit and removing an exhibit from the collision scene without authority. Insp Chamberlain faced allegations of issuing an instruction to delete photographic evidence taken at the scene and withholding evidence from Surrey Police. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin said the delays to the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC’s) investigation were out of the control of the MPS. However, the IPCC suggested both parties were to blame as the force scheduled the two officers’ hearing 18 months after it was ordered to. It also said it is “working hard” to improve the timeliness of its investigations. Mr Martin added: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Liam’s family for their tragic loss. ”A panel has today determined that it would impossible for the two officers to have a fair hearing given the long history and circumstances of this case. The matter was very carefully considered by the panel and they state that it is not a decision that has been taken lightly. “It is crucially important for public confidence that police officers are held to account and the sad death of Liam has been investigated twice, through a managed and then independent IPCC inquiry, and fully scrutinised during an inquest. “However, it is also very important that officers are treated fairly and in the exceptional circumstances of this case the panel determined that could not happen. “Delays to the IPCC investigation were not within the control of the Met. While there are often some unavoidable delays in arranging misconduct hearings, we will review what happened in this case and I would like to express our regret to Liam’s family if there are things we could have done better.” The investigation into Mr Albert’s death began in May 2013, and concluded that PC Willis and Insp Chamberlain should face gross misconduct proceedings. In April 2016, the IPCC ordered those hearings to be arranged. IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts said: “We respect the panel’s decision today, which followed careful consideration of the opposing arguments proposed by the Metropolitan Police and lawyers acting for the officers involved. “This case has a long and involved procedural history and we very much regret our part in any delay. I want to apologise to Liam Albert’s family for the frustration and upset this has caused as well as to the officers involved. We appreciate that Liam’s family feel badly let down by the outcome and the frustration felt by the officers who were subject to our investigation. “While our investigation was completed within two years, we recognise that, at eight years, this process has taken far too long. While we always strive to conduct timely and thorough investigations we acknowledge that we sometimes get things wrong and that we need to learn from those occasions.”

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