Jury concludes systemic Met Police failings contributed to pedestrian's death

Thursday 18 October 2018

Sean Horstead represented the family at the inquest, instructed by Andre Clovis and Lucinda Hawthorn of Tuckers Solicitors.

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At 6.45pm on Sunday 3 December 2017 Suleyman Yalcin [44], was making his way to his elderly parents’ home for dinner when he was struck and killed by a police van responding, with blue lights and sirens, to a request to attend ‘on the hurry up’ and assist in the transfer of detainees to a police station.

Mr Yalcin, at the point of impact, had crossed three lanes and was one step from the pavement and safety. The police driver admitted seeing Mr Yalcin in the furthest lane, but nonetheless continued to accelerate. The police van CCTV recorded what may have been an attempt to shift from 4th to 5th gear immediately prior to impact. Upon further forensic examination of the van’s IDR or ‘black box’, the vehicle was found to have reached 56mph in the 30mph zone a fraction of a second prior to striking Mr Yalcin; the driver applied the brakes on what he described as a “wet” road surface, but the front near side of the van struck Mr Yalcin at 47mph propelling him 19m through the air and into an illuminated advertising board, which exploded. Mr Yalcin was pronounced dead at the scene at 7.20pm.

Mr Yalcin had spent the afternoon in a Turkish social club. Although he didn’t drive, the Post Mortem indicated that he was slightly less than twice the drink-drive limit [i.e. approximately 3 pints of lager]. It was also accepted that due to his medical background Mr Yalcin was a “vulnerable” pedestrian.

On 12 October 2018, following a 9 day Inquest in the North London Coroner’s Court, a jury unanimously concluded that a number of systemic failings relating to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) contributed to the death.

The Jury concluded that, aside from alcohol impairing his judgment and the traffic and lighting conditions at the time, Mr Yalcin’s’ death resulted from a Road Traffic Collision, contributed to by:

  1. Insufficient refresher training given to the police van response driver;
  2. Inadequate police terminology used to describe the urgency of the situation to which the driver was responding;
  3. Police under-resourcing.

The findings represent significant failures and inadequacies on the part of the MPS that the family consider reflect a significant degree of complacency which, had they been addressed earlier, are likely to have prevented the death of Mr Yalcin. The findings of the jury followed admissions by police witnesses that the driver had not undertaken any refresher training since 2002 and, as the driver himself conceded when challenged by Mr Horstead, Counsel for the family, driving more slowly would have made no significant difference to his arrival time to collect the prisoners, but would have significantly reduced the risk to the public and that it was likely Mr Yalcin would have made it to his parents.

At the conclusion of the inquest, HM Senior Coroner Andrew Walker indicated that he will be using his coronial powers under Regulation 28, to write to the MPS to raise the concerns identified by the Jury and, the family hope, to seek assurances that measures will be put in place by the MPS to prevent future deaths.

Mr Yalcin’s family are determined that lessons are learned by the MPS from this dreadful event.  In particular the family are concerned that a system is put in place to ensure that police officers are adequately and appropriately trained to engage in emergency response driving, that such training and refresher training is monitored and recorded.  The family demand given the very significant risks of death and serious injury to other road users in London such high speed driving engenders, that it is only undertaken when the circumstances really do call for an “urgent” response.

Figures available before the Inquest following a Freedom of Information request showed that in year ending 2013 there were 2797 collisions on the road involving MPS vehicles. By year ending 2016, this had increased to 4072.

A recent IOPC Report also revealed an alarming trend in England & Wales. In year ending 2013/14 and 2014/15 there were no emergency response related fatalities. This increased to 2 in 2015/16 but returned to 0 the following year. However, by 2017/18 this figure had leapt to 8 fatalities.

Suleyman Yalcin’s family are committed to ensuring that, if nothing else, his tragic death contributes to a radical and immediate reduction in that wholly unacceptable trend.

Sean Horstead is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Inquests and Inquiries Team.

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