South West Wales

South Wales Police: Lee Lewis pursuit death officers warned

Five police officers have been given written warnings for disobeying orders to stop pursuing a man who went on to crash into a wall and later died.

A narrative verdict was recorded into the death of 22-year-old Lee Lewis after the 2008 pursuit in Port Talbot.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) released its findings following Thursday's inquest.

South Wales Police said they had taken "extensive action" to ensure staff were aware of expectations during pursuits.

Mr Lewis was driving a Ford Fiesta that he had taken without the owner's permission.

During a previous hearing, held earlier this month at Swansea Guildhall, coroner Phillip Rogers was told that Mr Lewis did not have a driving licence.

On the night of the pursuit, he was seen in the Fiesta by police in the Port Talbot area driving without lights at about 0:45am on 18 May, 2008.

After the officers attempted to stop him, he drove off and, following a pursuit, crashed into a wall at Margam Park.

He was taken to hospital and was there for 12 days before he died after contracting a blood infection.

In its finding, the IPCC said in substantiating the allegations against the officers, some of the most telling evidence came from the police control room staff.

It said the control room staff were satisfied those involved were not authorised drivers in authorised vehicles and based on what they were hearing at the time, made the decision to stand everyone down.

'Pursuit guidelines'

IPCC Commissioner for Wales Tom Davies said: "The police pursuit was conducted by four drivers who were not pursuit-trained.

"During some stages of the pursuit there were four police vehicles in a convoy travelling at speeds of up to 87mph on roads that had a 60mph limit.

"This included two police cars and two police vans, one of which was a dog handler's van."

He said it was "disappointing" that the officers involved in the incident found it difficult to recall distances, speeds and the actions of others.

Mr Davies added: "South Wales Police considered the officers' actions as evidenced by the independent investigation and rightly disciplined them.

"Since this incident police pursuit guidelines have been given the force of law and will go a long way to ensuring that police pursuits are carried out correctly."

Ch Supt Tim Jones, the force head of professional standards, said: "We wish to provide reassurance that South Wales Police is working hard to ensure that we have robust policies in place to ensure that everything possible is being done to minimise the risks involved during police pursuits.

"We have also taken extensive action to ensure that our staff is continually aware of the expected actions that they take in these challenging operational situations."

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