Memoirs From A Picket Line – The Final Chapter
Welcome one and all to this, the final chapter of MY Miners’ Strike.
As we start I’m still suspended from Driving Duties, Mutual Aid has ceased and I am waiting to hear my fate.
The beginning of the end is a visit to my Duty Inspector’s office. He informed me that I was to be prosecuted for an offence of Driving Without Due Care And Attention and that he was in possession of the Summons which he duly served on me. That hurt. Not just because I was being prosecuted, but because it was Christmas Eve (it could have waited till after Christmas) and every other motorist gets their summons in the post. For some reason Personal Service was deemed more appropriate for me.
I have to say that once I got down to trying to sort things out after Christmas, the Federation were not brilliant. However they did agree with my suggestion that I could choose my own solicitor and they would pay the bill. A bit of a cop out but it actually suited me well.
I took myself off to the office of one of the local solicitors that I had frequently battled with at the local Magistrates Court (no CPS in the early days, we prosecuted our own cases, Traffic and Minor Crime). Once I showed him the summons and relayed my version of events he initially thought that it was some kind of sick joke.
Eventually I was served the prosecution pack of statements and the Accident Investigator’s report. What I saw and read made me feel like laughing, but it didn’t quite come out that way.
It was quite clear that the Police, when taking the other driver’s statement, had asked her what speed she was driving at at the time of the collision. She had stated that she was travelling at a speed of 60mph, coincidentally the speed limit for that piece of road. She claimed that she had first seen me when she was “2 car lengths away” from my car.
The Accident Investigator’s report pointed out that xxx yards to the left (I’m sorry, I forget the distance) was a bend but at 60mph the Porsche would have been clearly visible to me, had I looked left.
My solicitor engaged the services of Professor somebody or other, who apparently was an expert in Accident Investigation and Reconstruction. His conclusions were completely at odds with the conclusions of the Nottinghamshire Traffic Officer’s report.
In April I was informed that there would be a Pre Trial Review. My solicitor spoke to the Clerk of the Court and asked what that was all about. He was informed that all interested parties got together and went over the evidence, presumably in an attempt to get an early Guilty Plea. So he asked the Clerk “Does that mean you might find there’s No Case To Answer?” “Oh no” said the Clerk “There’s no chance of that”. “In that case we’re not coming” responded my brief “see you at the trial”.
I wasn’t sure that answer was in my best interests, but I trusted him.
On the appointed day we jumped on a train and set off for Mansfield. I was not feeling happy.
Before the trial even got underway two things happened that made me feel a little better.
Firstly the Chairman of the Bench decided that he would close the Court to Press and Public. We hadn’t requested that, it was an unexpected bonus.
Secondly I was informed that the Chairman of the Bench was a Chartered Mechanical Engineer, so whatever was going to happen that day he would at least have understood all the formulae that were going to be bandied about.
The one thing that didn’t please me was learning that a whole day had been set aside for the trial. I accept that I have never been a Traffic Officer but I had never encountered a full day’s trial for a Without Due Care.
The trial got underway with the other driver giving her evidence first. It seems she had dropped her children off at school and was thinking about her shopping list (honestly). The rest of it was pretty much in line with her statement that I had already read.
The Accident Investigator gave his evidence next. Pretty predictable and unremarkable, I had already read his conclusions. My solicitor only asked him one question in cross examination “What are your qualifications officer?”
It seems he had completed Part One of the Accident Investigator’s Course, but was due to do Part Two soon. “Thank you Officer”
At this point the Chairman of the Bench decided to leap in with a question. ” Officer, you have told us about the Skid Tests and Acceleration Tests that you conducted using your Ford Granada. Was that vehicle fitted with NCT tyres?” “I don’t know Sir, the same sort of tyres as they put on Vauxhall Astras”.
“Thank you Officer”
Then it was my turn. Pretty routine, I knew the story backwards, and I had given evidence literally hundreds of times, though not normally as The Defendant.
Next, and finally, came my star witness, the Prof.
He started off by introducing his own qualifications. BSc, MSc, PhD, 12 years experience reconstructing accidents and consultancy work for the Home Office. I was beginning to feel better.
He then played his trump card. He went over his Accident Reconstruction, based on data supplied by the Reporting Officers, and informed the Court that in his expert opinion the Porsche had initially been traveling at 113.7mph prior to the application of the brakes. At this speed it would most definitely have been out of view around the bend when I commenced my manoeuvre.
No questions in cross-examination and no questions from the Bench.
The Bench retired.
Then they sent out for tea and biscuits.
After only 20 minutes they returned. I stood to hear my fate.
Then it got even better. The Chairman asked me who was responsible for my Costs. After hearing that the Federation were paying he looked a little crestfallen. Had I been responsible for my own costs he was going to make an Order requiring Nottinghamshire Constabulary to pay them, but as the Fed were paying he let it lie.
The lady Porsche driver walked across the Court, shook my hand and congratulated me, and not sarcastically. I asked her if the Met had yet paid her out for her Porsche. “I don’t actually know, but I’ve ordered a new one anyway”. “I’m glad it all worked out well for you”. I have a vague memory that she may have been the wife of somebody on the Police Authority, but I’m far from certain about that bit.
Then la pièce de résistance, the Nottinghamshire Sergeant who’d started all this off showed me his Prosecution File. It contained a Minute from the Chief Constable no less, saying that any Met Officer coming to notice during the Miners’ Strike was to be prosecuted, end of.
I floated back to London on a Happy Cloud.
After a few days I decided to phone the relevant Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard to tell him that I had been acquitted and to ask to be reinstated to Driving Duties. “We all know what happens at Court son, the Innocent are convicted and the Guilty go free”. Followed by “you can be reinstated but the accident will be To Count”. i.e. he was still going to record it as my fault, regardless of the Court decision.
Never again did I put my own personal Driving Licence at jeopardy for the benefit of the Met. Captain Slow would have been proud of me, I was probably the Met’s slowest Response Driver, but no way was I going through that again. Nobody cared that I could have been Disqualified, and for what?
All sorts of things changed for me that day.
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