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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 09:47 
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09:30 - 25 May 2005
A policeman accused of dangerous driving for speeding at 90mph in a 30mph zone has walked free from court because of a "catalogue of maladministration".

PC Daniel Swain was answering an emergency call in the early hours of a frosty morning when he was in collision with a Vauxhall Vectra as it emerged from a side road.

His Vauxhall Astra, which had its blue lights flashing, then smashed into a house on February 20 last year.

His Derbyshire police colleagues investigated the accident in Shuttlewood, near Bolsover, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to prosecute PC Swain because the "incident data recorder" - similar to an aeroplane's black box - allegedly showed he was doing 90mph.

The driver of the Vectra has been charged with careless driving.

PC Swain (30), of Windmill Rise, South Normanton, who denied dangerous driving, was to stand trial at Derby Crown Court yesterday but the case collapsed.

Saying the CPS was "not likely to get a conviction", prosecutor Hal Ewing offered no evidence after Recorder Robert Glancy QC refused to allow him to rely on an expert's report which the defence had only just received.

Recorder Glancy said there was "no excuse" for it being served so late.

He said: "It seems to me that this is a prime example of the sort of thing that happens all too frequently and which results in the whole system of criminal justice coming into disrepute."

The defence was claiming the black box, which cannot be checked now as it is "no longer in existence", was potentially unreliable as it had not been recalibrated following an earlier minor accident.

The prosecution's new report, from black box manufacturer Siemens, was going to suggest that the black box was "not unreliable".

But its recording of PC Swain's speed at 90mph was in contrast to the evidence of PC Glen Dent, who was travelling 200 metres behind his colleague and said in a statement that he was never doing more than 55 to 60mph.

PC Dent's black box was not checked because he was not involved in the accident and was not activated, said police.

Four months ago, Judge John Wait had questioned the prosecution, saying: "I cannot see what the case is. I can see no prospect of a jury convicting."

Since then, two more judges had also asked why the CPS was still pursuing the case.

Mr Glancy told the court: "It's a great shame this wasn't a decision that was arrived at months ago."

He told PC Swain, who still faces an internal misconduct hearing: "You leave this court without any stain on your character or integrity whatsoever.

"If you were driving at 90mph, I could see why you would be criticised but there's no doubt in my mind that you were not."

Paul Smith, of Safe Speed, said afterwards: "This case sounds like a catalogue of maladministration.

"Cases like this are extremely damaging to the police/public relationship. The main damage is caused because the police are responsible for draconian speed enforcement - ordinary members of the public are prosecuted for safely exceeding the speed limit by just a few miles per hour."

A CPS spokesman said: "It was right to bring the case. It's regrettable that the statement from the expert witness was obtained too late to be used in evidence."

Paul Smith
Our scrap speed cameras petition got over 28,000 sigs
The Safe Speed campaign demands a return to intelligent road safety

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