Tuesday 12 January 2010

Crown Prosecution Service lets another killer driver walk free

A woman driver who ran down and killed a cyclist with her luxury Range Rover walked free from court today after claiming she may have fainted at the wheel of her car. Tracy Johnson, 35, escaped prosecution after her 4x4 vehicle mowed down mother of three Sharon Corless, 43, as she was out riding her bike with her husband.

The runaway Range Rover also ploughed into Mrs Corless’ husband Peter at up to 51mph before smashing into another car and then hitting a lamp-post on a roundabout. After the crash Mrs Corless - described by her family as ‘the perfect mum’ - lay dying in the road, Johnson emerged from her £60,000 vehicle in a ‘shocked and dazed condition’ asking ‘what’s happened?’

Inquiries revealed Johnson, who lives in a £300,000 house in Fearnheard near Warrington, Cheshire,
had been on her phone 'minutes' before the crash but not directly before the impact.

So let’s get this straight. Tracy Johnson is plainly one of those slobs in 4X4s who habitually drives while chatting on a mobile phone. Soon after using a mobile phone while driving she “lost control”:

The vehicle began to drift from the carriageway and then collided with the verge and drove along the vergeway with the near side wheels on the verge.

Why she lost control only she knows, and naturally she isn’t telling. Plainly she was concentrating on something other than her driving. She hit two cyclists, killing one and seriously injuring the other. Moments after the crash her concern was only for herself, not those she had run down, and “was asking for her mobile telephone” which she used to phone her partner.

Faced with a charge of causing death by dangerous driving, this wealthy woman paid a doctor who came up with the agreeable conclusion that perhaps she’d fainted. Another doctor

conducted further tests on Johnson and although he could not replicate the circumstances in which she fainted, he could not rule it out.

But there are two rather more obvious explanations for her behaviour. One is that cushioned in her £60,000 metal bubble she was totally oblivious of the world around her, so busy was she with whatever it was she was up to just before the crash. The other is that she was aware of losing control and was paralysed by shock. Neither excuses her responsibility towards fellow road users.

If the Court is going to excuse her killing of a cyclist on the grounds of a fainting fit, then why is she not banned from driving for life on the grounds that she may faint again and kill another road user? The killer driver should not be allowed to have it both ways, and yet she has.

The Crown Prosecution Service always bends over backwards not to prosecute drivers who kill cyclists (QV the case in Reading of the van driver who ran down two cyclists from behind, killing one, and was not prosecuted because he said he just didn’t see them). The corruption inside the CPS was amply demonstrated by the decision not to prosecute serial offender Harriet Harman for driving while using a mobile phone, thereby sparing the government from the embarrassment of a minister losing her driving licence.

In this instance the CPS deferred to medical opinion and abandoned the case, and the judge declined to overule this perverse decision. Yet this matter should have been put before a jury. Let the jury decide on the merits of this so-called expertise, not car driving CPS lawyers and judges who for all we know may themselves have a string of motoring offences to their names.

It is not the first time a wealthy defendant has been able to call on a doctor to help them out of a spot of bother. Remember how

Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, was cleared of driving his BMW on the hard shoulder of the M602 in Eccles, Greater Manchester in October 1999. His lawyer argued that it was due to an emergency as Sir Alex had an upset stomach and needed to use the toilet.

A doctor duly supplied a supportive medical opinion of Sir Alex's urgent need to bypass a traffic jam.

More examples of how the wealthy escape justice for their motoring crimes, often through CPS incompetence here

Worst of all, a very disturbing precedent has now been set. You can be quite sure that those barristers who specialise in getting celebrities and rich people off driving raps will have taken note of this decision. We’ll be hearing a lot more about “fainting fits” by killer drivers in the future.