Fatal crash PC's apology

PUBLISHED: 10:21 21 June 2010 | UPDATED: 18:05 30 June 2010

A top Norfolk traffic policeman, who has investigated hundreds of fatal crashes in the county, was himself involved in a road tragedy when he caused the death of an experienced motorcyclist after a momentary lapse of judgement behind the wheel, a court heard.

A top Norfolk traffic policeman, who has investigated hundreds of fatal crashes in the county, was himself involved in a road tragedy when he caused the death of an experienced motorcyclist after a momentary lapse of judgement behind the wheel, a court heard.

PC Michael Pearce, a serving officer for 22 years, was driving an unmarked police car when he turned into the path of two motorcyclists on the B1108 Norwich Road at Carbrooke, near Watton, killing 63-year-old businessman David Jennings.

The on-duty officer was driving to collect witness statements when he was involved in the collision and immediately after the crash Norwich Crown Court heard how he helped those at the scene and admitted he had not seen the bikers, who were both driving with their headlights on, so they could be clearly seen.

Pearce, a member of the serious collision investigation team, had at the time of the crash been put on lighter duties after recovering from being struck by a car while on traffic duties at an accident scene.

The court heard that advanced driver Pearce, 43, had not been suspended from the force following the fatal road crash although his future is uncertain and Judge Anthony Bate said that he hoped Pearce would be able to keep his job, describing him as an asset to Norfolk police.

A total of 51 testimonials were handed into the court including one from assistant chief constable Simon Bailey, who also attended the hearing.

The court was told how the accident would haunt Pearce for the rest of his life as in his job he regularly witnessed the “utter devastation” accidents of this kind cause and had spent his professional life trying to stop them happening.

Pearce admitted causing death by careless driving, on July 25, last year, and appeared for sentence yesterday.

He was given a 12 month community order and ordered to do 300 hours unpaid work, which he will have to do away from other offenders. He was also made to pay £600 towards prosecution costs and given a 12 month driving ban.

Judge Bate told him that for some reason he had failed to see the motorcyclists: “It was your failure on this particular day which has had such disastrous consequences.”

However he spoke of the high esteem in which Pearce was held and talked of the many testimonials he had read including a commendation for the work he did in finding a hit and run driver who mowed down an 80-year-old woman in Unthank Road, Norwich, back in 2002.

He told Pearce: “It is my view that you are an asset to the force and if possible should continue to serve this county.”

Mark Fenhalls, for Pearce, said: “From the beginning, when he said please express my heartfelt sympathy and remorse to the family of Mr Jennings, that is how he has felt.”

He said that it was a “momentary disaster” and said: “He has worked for most of his professional life trying to stop things like this happening.”

He said his response to the accident was to immediately help those at the scene and never sought to blame anyone, but himself.

“Pearce is unable to explain this lapse. This is going to haunt him for the rest of his life”

He said that Pearce's future in the force was uncertain and he could still face disciplinary action.

After the case the family of Mr Jennings, of East Harling, said his death had changed their lives forever and no sentence would bring him back.

In a statement they said: “The fact that the policeman who caused this accident works on the serious collision team in Norfolk only makes this harder to deal with, but we know, like us, he will have to deal with what happened every day, for the rest of his life.

“We just hope that some good will come out of this showing people that you don't have to be on a mobile phone, eating or smoking to cause an accident and someone's death while driving. Just a momentary lapse of concentration is all it takes and in one moment a life can be taken.”

A spokesman for Norfolk police said that Pearce had been on restricted duties throughout the investigation and said: “The force will now take time to consider whether misconduct proceedings are appropriate.”

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