Police collision verdict ‘difficult to comprehend’
Police group responds to damning county court verdict
THE police officers’ union has hit back at a county court judgment which placed all the blame for a crash which killed a young mother on the officer driving a speeding patrol car.
Last week Judge Jonathan Simpkiss concluded that Kent Police were wholly liable over the death of 29year-old Woodchurch barmaid Rachel Cheesewright.
The police Skoda, which was answering an emergency call, smashed into her Ford Fiesta on the A28 at Bethersden in October 2005.
Sitting at Canterbury county court, the judge found that the patrol car driver PC William Purse was “100 per cent” to blame because he did not have the siren sounding and had come around a bend too fast.
However, responding to the judge’s findings, a statement from Kent Police Federation said the judgment “flies in the face of all previous detailed examinations of the facts and has implications for all emergency services.”
Ian Pointon, chairman of the Kent Police Federation said: “On the night in question, Constable Purse, an advanced police driver, was responding to an emergency call in a vehicle equipped to do so.
“In reality, Miss Cheesewright pulled from a side road onto the main A28 into the path of a police vehicle displaying headlights and blue lights. It was dark and these would have been clearly visible.
“Consequently, with nearly 24 years of policing experience I find it difficult to comprehend how Constable Purse is wholly liable.”
He added: “The Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Crown Prosecution Service and the inquest have all concluded this was a tragic accident and that Constable Purse was not at fault.
“I am perplexed that the county court has produced a judgment so at odds with these others.
“This judgment, contrary to comments made by the Cheesewright family’s solicitor has implications for all the emergency services and not just the police.
“When members of the public call for urgent assistance, whether that is fire, ambulance or police, they expect a speedy response; if you’re having a heart attack you want the ambulance there quickly.
“I sincerely hope this judgment won’t result in emergency vehicles keeping to the speed limits lest someone pulls out in front of them.”
He concluded: “I fully understand the desire to find someone to blame and my thoughts are with both the Cheesewright family and the officers involved in this tragic accident.”
Rachel Cheesewright died when her car was hit by a police vehicle answering an emergency call