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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 00:16 
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26 May 2005
By Rod Chaytor

A POLICE driver accused of crashing at 90mph in a 30mph zone walked free yesterday after evidence of his speed went missing.

Pc Daniel Swain, 30, was accused of dangerous driving when his Astra hit another car before hurtling through the front of a nearby house.

But a judge ruled there was no case to answer because a data recorder, which stored the car's speed, was "no longer in existence" even though it should have been kept by police.

Recorder Robert Glancy, QC, also refused to allow evidence about the box's accuracy because it arrived "too late".

He told Pc Swain: "I apologise on behalf of the system and for the fact you've had this hanging over you for over a year."

His decision, which came a week after Pc Mark Milton, 38, was cleared of speeding despite roaring down the M54 in Shropshire at 159mph, provoked fury.

The anti-speed group Brake said: "It seems to prove again that there is one rule for the public and another for police."

The Safe Speed campaign added: "Cases like this are very damaging to police-public relationships."

Pc Swain, who is still under internal investigation over alleged misconduct, declined to comment after the case. The officer was answering a call at 4.50am when he collided with a Vectra, whose driver is now accused of careless driving.

Pc Swain's car then smashed into the house at Shuttlewood, Derbys. No one was hurt.

The in-car recorder allegedly revealed the vehicle was doing 90mph just before the crash.

However Pc Glen Dent, who was following in a second patrol car, claimed he had been driving at only 50-60 mph.

Defence solicitor Sonal Ahya told Derby crown court Pc Swain's recorder may have been unreliable after being involved in an earlier crash.

It should have been kept by Derbyshire police as evidence. But Ms Ahya said: "There is no way of checking the recorder as it is no longer in existence."

A manufacturer's report suggested the "black box" was accurate. Judge Glancy dismissed the evidence, saying there was "no excuse" for it to be produced almost 18 months after the incident.

Attacking Crown prosecutors for wasting taxpayers' money by "inaccurate consideration of evidence", he said: "There's nothing to suggest Pc Dent is not a reliable witness. This is not a case for a conviction."

Following his ruling the prosecution offered no evidence. Pc Swain denied the offence.

Outside court, homeowner Elaine Smithurst, 59, said: "I said to my husband 'Oh my God, there's a police car coming through the window'. Then there was a loud bang.

"In half-an-hour the car had gone. Normally, the house would have been cordoned off.

"I'm devastated by this and could hit the roof. The police have never even apologised."

The Police Federation said: "The accuracy and the maintenance of the information data recorder is something we're very concerned about."

The CPS said: "It was right to bring the case. It's regrettable the evidence about the recorder was obtained too late." Police said: "The officer is still the subject of an internal inquiry."

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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