Police driver involved in fatal Hastings collision defends actions

Court
Court

A police officer driving a car which collided with a pedestrian in Hastings said he stands by his decision to pursue a suspected disqualified driver.

PC Matt Morris gave evidence at the inquest into the death of James Sutton, 46, of Silchester Road, Hastings, at Eastbourne Town Hall today (May 19).

Mr Sutton died on the A259 in White Rock on the evening of March 12, 2014, after he collided with a police car on an ‘emergency call’.

PC Morris said: “My blue lights are on, my sirens are on, I see a vehicle in front of me slow down almost to a stop to allow me safe passage past him.

“On my left hand side there was a sudden movement.

“I hit my brakes and I realised I had been involved in a collision.

“It came from nowhere. As soon as I saw the movement I reacted.”

PC Morris said he was ‘completely disorientated’ by the collision, but made a call over the radio to say he had hit a pedestrian.

CCTV evidence played in court showed PC Morris get out of the police car and give Mr Sutton first aid.

PC Morris said he believed driving while disqualified was a ‘relatively serious’ offence and defended his decision to use the car’s flashing lights and siren to follow the BMW driver along the seafront.

He said: “My decision-making was based on sound judgement and I wouldn’t change anything.

“I made the judgement that the BMW driver wasn’t safe to be on the road from previous dealings with disqualified drivers.

“The only thing I would change is the outcome.

“My condolences to the family. I can’t imagine how hard this last year has been for the family.”

Inspector Steve Grace, from Sussex Police Road Policing Unit, told the jury he believed the positive aspects of using blue flashing lights, sirens and speed limit exemption ‘outweighed’ the negatives, adding that he didn’t think any officer used them ‘lightly’.

The jury heard the police car was not travelling in excess of 55 mph, although experts could not determine the exact speed at the time of impact.

PC Christopher Harrison, from Sussex Police Forensic Collision Investigation and Reconstruction said CCTV footage confirmed the car would have been ‘highly conspicuous’ at the time of the collision because of the sirens and blue flashing lights.

He said Mr Sutton’s awareness of the car might have been impaired by ‘alcohol or cannabinoids’ in his system as he ‘entered the pathway of the vehicle’.

The hearing into Mr Sutton’s death continues.

www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/local/police-car-involved-in-hastings-fatal-pedestrian-collision-was-on-emergency-call-1-6750813