Chambers has achieved a hard-fought but ultimately sombre victory with the acquittal of a Defendant charged with causing the death of an elderly couple by dangerous driving.
The Defendant was accused of racing with a co-defendant (who pleaded guilty). As the co-defendant overtook the Defendant at excessive speed, he lost control of his Subaru Impreza and crossed the central reservation. The car uprooted a sign post, hit first one car, and then collided head-on with the car being driven by the deceased.
The Defendant was arrested at the scene and tested positive for cannabis. His car was not directly involved in the collision. In interview he denied that he had been racing or even speeding.
The Prosecution relied on two eye-witnesses who had been alongside the defendants at some traffic lights about 1 kilometre short of the collision. The witnesses said that both defendants had departed the lights at incredible speeds and were obviously competing with each other.
The prosecution case was taken up by a moped rider who said that both defendants had overtaken him at a point close to the collision. He said that although he was travelling at about 45 mph they had passed him “as if I was standing still”.
The Prosecution also relied on CCTV evidence charting the progress of the vehicles before the collision, crush analysis and calculations based on the uprooting of the post. These and other calculations led the Senior Collision Investigator called by the Crown to say that both defendants were travelling at excessive speed and that their conduct was indicative of racing.
The Defence instructed their own expert, Adrian Armstrong of Keith Borer Consultants, who identified flaws in the crush analysis calculations (such that it was rejected at trial) and further cast doubt on the evidence that the Defendant was either racing or speeding.
At the initial trial the jury were unable to agree a verdict. Before the retrial could take place the moped rider had gone abroad and the Crown sought to adduce his evidence as hearsay. The Defence submitted an argument that defeated this application.
Further argument was submitted arguing against the admissibility of the toxicologist’s finding that the Defendant had cannabis in his blood. The Defendant had not been found to be impaired and the argument was that there was no evidence that the cannabis that he had ingested the day before was in any way impacting on his driving skills or decision making. The Prosecution eventually conceded the argument at the retrial.
After experts were called on both sides, the Judge ruled that there was no case to answer at the close of the Prosecution case. He accepted the Defence argument that “anecdotal” estimates of the speed of the defendants departing the lights were inconsistent with other more scientific calculations and, more importantly, that once the two cars had left the sight of the witnesses, there was simply no evidence to contradict the Defendant’s account that having attained the speed limit he stuck to it, whereas his co-defendant in overtaking him had not. The Judge accepted the expert evidence that the speed of the co-defendant at the moment he lost control was not evidence that could properly lead to a jury concluding that the Defendant was travelling at the same speed.