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'Thank God for the sense of British juries': Met chief slams driving case against armed cop who rushed to terror attack
24 November 2023, 14:43 | Updated: 24 November 2023, 15:56
An armed officer who rushed to the scene of the Streatham terror attack in 2020 to save lives has been cleared of dangerous driving - as Britain's top cop slammed the legal case against him.
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PC Paul Fisher was told over his radio that people were seriously injured and shots had been fired as Sudesh Amman unleashed his knife attack.
He lead another police car at high-speed but crashed into three cars and a garden wall, injuring two others. The police watchdog said he had been travelling at four times the speed limit.
But almost four years on from his attempt to respond to the attack on February 2 2020 he has been cleared of dangerous driving.
The Commissioner of the Met, Sir Mark Rowley, hit out at the case after travelling to Southwark Crown Court, where his officer was finally found not guilty by a jury following a six-day trial.
"Thank God for the common sense of British juries," he said, saying his officer was under the "most unimaginable pressure driving his vehicle at speed to a live terrorist attack four years ago".
He warned police were sometimes avoiding chases because they fear that their decisions will be "unpicked" over years.
Sir Mark Rowley slams case against firearms officer
"He clearly made some mistakes on that drive. The right answer would’ve been some warnings within the organisation, some retraining, some re-testing, to getting back protecting the public," Sir Mark said.
"And yet, here we are four years later. Him and his family have faced unimaginable pressure having been pursued for that period of time by the IOPC [Independent Office for Police Conduct] and forced into a one week Crown Court trial for dangerous driving.
"The jury have rightly acquitted him today. I can think of no other country where an officer, rushing to the scene of a terrorist attack, who makes a mistake, would be handed and prosecuted over four years.
"The IOPC's pursuit of good officers like this - I see evidence day in and day out in my force of colleagues whose confidence to act in the most difficult of circumstances is sapped by the fear of unfair scrutiny afterwards."
PC Fisher was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, a watchdog, as was another armed officer who drove the second car.
It sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service in May 2021, which agreed to charge PC Fisher.
No further action was taken against the second officer but both were taken off duties while the criminal case rumbled on.
Amman was shot dead by officers in Streatham High Road after he stabbed two people.
He had been let out of jail despite authorities' fears he was a serious risk to the public, and he was followed by surveillance after his release.
Amman came out of a shop brandishing a large kitchen knife and stabbed a man and a woman - both survived - then was gunned down as surveillance officers challenged him.
PC Fisher had been racing to the scene when the crash happened.
Sir Mark said the case against him undermined his officers' confidence in using their powers to protect people.
"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," he said.
"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."
IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: "There is no doubt that PC Fisher was responding to a life-threatening incident in February 2020. A jury, having considered all of the evidence, has acquitted him of dangerous driving and we respect that decision."