Sunday, 17 August 2008

A disturbing case

What bothers me about this case is the way in which the police determine that a driver who comes round a bend at speed and kills a pedestrian is not at fault. In this instance it was a pedestrian but it might just as easily have been a cyclist, or for that matter an equestrian. This killer driver was not prosecuted for dangerous driving or for speeding but for other offences.

A HUSBAND and wife who tried to cover up their involvement in the death of a teenager in a hit-and-run accident have been jailed. Marilyn Aldridge, 55, hit and killed pedestrian Joanne Cottage as she drove her blue Ford Granada along Ness Road, Shoebury, on February 1 last year. But despite knowing she had injured the 17-year-old Shoebury girl, who died in hospital the next day, she drove off and then picked up her husband Russell Aldridge from IMS, the steel company where he worked in nearby Vanguard Way. Marilyn Aldridge, who had no insurance, contacted police the next day and claimed her car had been stolen in an attempt to avoid prosecution.

At Basildon Crown Court, Judge Christopher Mitchell sentenced Marilyn Aldridge to nine months in prison and Russell Aldridge to seven months. Samantha Leigh, counsel for the prosecution, said a police investigation had found the fatal crash had been an accident as there was a blind spot in the road which meant Marilyn Aldridge, would not have seen Miss Cottage until the last minute. Mrs Leigh said police also found no defects with her car and said she had been driving at speeds of between 30 and 42mph along the 30 mph road.

The road seems to have been in an urban area, since Miss Cottage, who wanted to go into banking, was knocked down close to an Asda supermarket near her home.

I’m reminded of the case of the four cyclists massacred in January 2006 by a driver who had defective tyres and who subsequently admitted he had been driving too fast. Within hours of the crash Chief Inspector Lyn Adams appeared on TV and absolved the driver from any blame. The driver was “not speeding” Adams blandly asserted. It was all the fault of ice on the road. This was a classic instance of a prejudiced officer making instant judgements. Adams failed to consider why no other driver had lost control on this particular bend earlier in the day.

At the inquest the coroner registered his disquiet at the police attitude to the driver.

In a damning statement, the coroner said police and officials had been "most unprofessional". The jury ruled out accidental death and returned a narrative verdict. Coroner John Hughes said: "The evidence shows classic signs that Robert Harris was driving without due care and attention and to his credit he admitted his responsibility in going too fast. I fail to understand why no proceedings were brought against him."