At the trial surrounding the deadly police chase in Brussels that claimed the lives of two young people in their twenties in 2017, the Brussels public prosecutor’s office has demanded the acquittal of the three police officers involved. The victims’ families react with incomprehension. “This police pursuit was not legitimate, necessary or proportionate,” their lawyers said.
The Brussels police court spent a whole day on Tuesday examining the police chase that took place on May 9, 2017. Just before half past eight in the evening, a patrol of the Brussels local police noticed a motorcyclist who was exhibiting reckless driving behavior. His passenger, later identified as 20-year-old Sabrina El Bakkali, was also not wearing protective driving shoes. When the patrol tried to check the motorcycle driver, he fled and a pursuit ensued. At the end of the Bailiff tunnel, the motorcyclist drove at high speed into a patrol car of the dog brigade that had positioned itself there to slow down traffic. The motorcyclist, 24-year-old Ouassim Toumi, died instantly, as did his girlfriend.
More than six years after the facts, the case came to court on Tuesday. “It was a long legal battle to get the police officers involved before the court,” argued Master Joke Callewaert, who defends the interests of the family of one of the victims. The criminal lawyer asked the court to convict the three defendants of involuntary manslaughter. “With their years of experience, they should have decided to stop the pursuit,” he said. “They didn’t, resulting in two deaths. They wanted to continue their pursuit at all costs.”
According to Callewaert, the three police officers involved ignored numerous rules. “A police pursuit must be legitimate, necessary and proportionate. This chase did not meet those criteria. The high speeds achieved were the direct result of the pursuit that was initiated. It was a vicious circle.”
The lawyer was especially sharp for the police officer from the dog brigade who stopped his vehicle in the right lane at the end of the Bailiff tunnel. “He committed several traffic violations to be able to put himself in that place. He also admitted that he knew he was standing there in a very dangerous place. The collision was inevitable.”
However, the Brussels public prosecutor’s office is of the opinion that the three police officers were not at fault and demanded the acquittal of the three defendants. “There is exactly 2 minutes and 22 seconds between the start of the chase and the accident. Can you then say that the police persevered at all costs? One wonders whether the police could not have questioned the driver at a later time, since his license plate had been noted. But neither the motorcyclist nor his passenger could be identified because they were wearing helmets.”
The public prosecutor also sees no problem in the actions of the inspector of the dog brigade who placed his vehicle at the end of the Bailiff tunnel. “The police officer involved positioned his car at a great distance from the motorcyclist. The collision happened about 12 to 15 seconds later. There was also room to pass the dog brigade’s vehicle, both left and right. So it was not a roadblock.”