Tuesday, November 13, 2012

British cop who chased suspect car without siren or lights and crashed into packed bus escapes with just a fine

A police officer who crashed into the side of a bus after running a red light during a car chase walked free from court today. PC David Gudgeon, 37, careered into the packed vehicle as he tailed a car leaving a 'drugs hotspot'.

However, the officer did not activate the sirens or blue lights on his unmarked car because he did not want to alert the driver of the suspect motor.

The PC was fined £350 after he admitted driving without due care and attention at Westminster Magistrates' Court. He was spared penalty points on his licence after a judge said the case was 'exceptional'.

PC Gudgeon started the car chase when he noticed the suspect Vauxhall Corsa leaving the Thistlebrook Industrial Estate in Abbey Wood, London, at around 9pm last March 28.

The officer, who had only became an advanced police driver last year, had already overtaken the car so went around the roundabout at the junction of Harrow Manor Way and Eastern Way to get behind the Corsa so he could check its number plate.

However as they approached traffic lights westbound less than 25 seconds later, the Corsa, which had a front headlight out, sped through the green light and as the two officers followed in their unmarked Vauxhall Zafira, the light turned to red.

PC Gudgeon said: 'It was going faster than a normal member of the public would travel, and a lot of the local criminals are aware of our unmarked vehicles. 'I wasn't closing the gap significantly enough to be able to get an ID on the number plate.

'If I'd have put my two-tone sirens on straight away - if that vehicle had something on board of interest - we would have lost it straight away. It was 300 yards in front of us.'

He added that he felt it necessary to check the number plate before stopping the car in case the three passengers were armed or dangerous, so decided to go through the red light in pursuit.

PC Gudgeon then tailed the vehicle along into the Thamesmead estate along Eastern Way and noticed a bus at the junction of Nathan Way but presumed it was going straight on. He said it had then unexpectedly turned right and straight into the path of his car as he went through a red traffic light. PC Gudgeon, who was travelling within the speed limit at 37mph, then drove into the front side of the bus.

Colin Reynolds, for Gudgeon, said: 'He simply misjudged the position of the bus and accepts he made a mistake.'

None of the 25 passengers or the driver of the bus was injured in the crash, which caused severe damage to the police car.

District Judge John Zani said the incident had exceptional circumstances and PC Gudgeon had made the right decision not to use his flashing lights or sirens.

He added: 'This vehicle was being driven with only one headlight functioning and you made the decision, quite rightly in my opinion, to monitor its movements.

'This case really turns on one decision you made. It's a decision you made to drive through the red signal. It's as simple as that. 'I do say that this is one of those rare cases where I'm satisfied that it's not appropriate to endorse your licence.'

PC Gudgeon, from Aylesford, Kent, admitted driving without due care and attention. He was given a fine of £350 and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £15.

Original report here

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