The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has found that civilian staff from South Wales Police acted within national and local guidance during an incident which resulted in the death of 31-year-old Jennifer Evans.
Ms Evans was a passenger in a white Daihatsu van which had been reported stolen from an address in Merthyr Tydfil. The van was found in a ravine next to the A4061 Rhigos Mountain road to Trehebert at around 4am on 24th May 2012. Both occupants were taken to the Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, where Ms Evans later died from her injuries.
The driver, Stephen Bosanko, was convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs and was jailed for six years and eight months.
South Wales Police referred the incident to the IPCC after concerns were raised around the public service centre’s management of police officers’ search for the van. The force’s public service centre is a team of radio operators responsible for communicating with police units.
The IPCC’s independent investigation focussed on the centre’s control, management and monitoring of the incident. It specifically examined whether or not the public service centre supervisor took appropriate ownership and responsibility of the incident, in line with ACPO and South Wales Police guidelines on vehicle pursuits management.
The investigation collected evidence from public service centre staff’s audio transmissions to police officers, CCTV footage from inside police vehicles, and witness accounts from the driver of the stolen van and motorists in the area at the time.
The investigation concluded that the search for the van, and the activities conducted during this, never met the relevant criteria to be categorised as a ‘pursuit’; therefore the public service centre had not, at any point, treated the incident as such.
Audio transmissions showed that the police officers were never behind or closely following the van and made no specific attempt to stop it before it crashed.
This evidence is supported by the account of Stephen Bosanko. He said that he was not aware of any police units pursuing him and said that a blind bend caused him to lose control of the van, which was thought to be travelling at around 70mph when it left the road.
The investigation found that the public service centre supervisor’s actions complied with South Wales Police and ACPO guidance on vehicle pursuits.
However, it was apparent that operators handling the incident had yet to receive South Wales Police’s latest training on pursuits management. The investigation also found some confusion between the operator and supervisor on how instructions to police officers should be logged. This was not a contributory factor in Ms Evans’ tragic death.
IPCC Commissioner Jan Williams said: “Any death on the roads is a tragedy. It has been over a year and half since Jennifer Evans’ death, which must have been a tremendously difficult period for her family and friends. They continue to have my sympathy over their sad loss.
“It was important that the IPCC investigation established exactly what happened. It was clear from the investigation that the van Ms Evans was travelling in had not been subject to a pursuit by police officers, and therefore the management of the incident by South Wales Police public service centre was appropriate.
“However, the IPCC found confusion among public service centre staff, caused by a lack of clarity around their roles and responsibilities and the fact that not all of them had undergone the latest training.
“The IPCC has worked to reduce the numbers of police-related road traffic accidents for several years now. I recognise the work that South Wales Police has recently undertaken to review and improve its staff training on pursuits based on recommendations from this and other IPCC investigations into road traffic accidents. Since receipt of this report, South Wales Police has acted to ensure that all public service centre staff are aware of what is expected of them, particularly when working in pressurised situations.”
The investigation report can be found investigation report"