Victims of road collisions in London are being denied justice because of a lack of guidance for police collecting evidence, City Hall has heard.
An inconsistent and uncertain approach to evidence-gathering by officers means that there is sometimes not enough information to prosecute, London Assembly members were told on Tuesday.
Rory McCarron, a senior solicitor at Leigh Day, said at a meeting of the Assembly’s police and crime committee: “I’m not convinced that one officer to the next knows exactly what they’re looking for.
“Certain, very basic information is lost at that initial stage [immediately after a collision] – capturing witnesses who might be at the scene, looking to see if there’s a traffic camera or a commercial property that might capture that footage of what happened.
“Basic things like photographs of the scene, positions of vehicles, positions of where people would have been travelling from, where did the victim end up when a collision has occurred.”
Mr McCarron, who generally works with injured cyclists and pedestrians, clarified that there can also be more positive outcomes, where “there’s been a really good initial search of the scene to see what has happened and get that information together”.
He suggested that officers be instructed to use their body-worn cameras – which are switched on during stop and search – to record footage of the collision site and document evidence that way.
According to Transport for London (TfL), there were 23,465 reported collisions on London’s roads in 2022, resulting in 102 people being killed, 3,859 being seriously injured and 23,246 being slightly injured.
But it was said at Tuesday’s meeting that the true number of serious injuries could be higher.
Nick Simmons, CEO of the charity RoadPeace, said: “Our sense is that the number of serious injuries is probably very significantly under-reported, so I think the problem is even worse than we might imagine it to be.”
The committee was told that this was because some injuries are not immediately recognised as being serious in the aftermath of a collision.
Mr McCarron stressed that thorough investigations into collisions can be vitally important for victims’ finances, due to the need to establish liability when attempting to claim monetary support.
He said: “Some victims live hand by mouth. They’re reliant on a monthly income to pay for their mortgage or rent or whatever it might be, and sometimes when collisions happen, that is immediately cut off, because they don’t have that income stream [due to injuries].
“It’s hugely important for police to be able to understand that whilst a prosecution may be serving justice, it doesn’t plug those gaps in financial aid for a victim, and that’s where we [solicitors] come in.
“If an investigation isn’t conducted properly, that has a material impact on the victim, what really counts for them in the long-term future.”
The Met Police has been approached for comment.
In 2018, mayor Sadiq Khan published his ‘Vision Zero’ action plan, which aims to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries on London’s transport system.
The 2022 target was to reduce the number of people who are killed or seriously injured by 65 per cent against 2005-09 levels. This was not met, with the number of people killed and seriously injured on London’s roads only reduced by 38 per cent.