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Rekha Sharma

Keoghs client acquitted at motorway collision trial

News And Events26/06/2018

R v RH – Derby Crown Court

Rekha Sharma attended the Police interview and represented the accused at Derby Crown Court. This case arose from a road traffic collision in January 2017.

The incident occurred when our client was travelling along the M1 motorway when he collided with a stationary vehicle in the outside lane. There was a passenger in that vehicle who was severely injured. Our client was subsequently charged with causing serious injury by dangerous driving and a “not guilty” plea was entered.

Background

Our client was adamant that he had not seen the motionless vehicle until the very last moment and he was unable to avoid a collision.

Our client explained that, prior to the collision, he was driving in the outside lane having overtaken a vehicle and he was checking his mirrors with a view to moving back into the middle lane. He remembers looking up and being on top of the stationary vehicle. Our client’s account was that he simply did not see the stopped vehicle.

Prosecution

The motionless vehicle had been stationary in the outside lane for four minutes and 30 seconds. The prosecution alleged that there were a number of vehicles that had avoided the vehicle and that our client ought to have taken evasive action to avoid a collision.

The prosecution relied on the evidence of a police forensic collision investigator. Having analysed the accident scene and CCTV footage provided by Highways England, PC Simpson concluded that our client would have had between 14 – 15 seconds and 526 metres to see and react to the presence of the stationary vehicle. The prosecution case was that failing to react to the presence of the vehicle was dangerous.

Defence

Keoghs instructed two experts, Mr. Stephen Green, Independent Forensic Collision Expert and Dr. Jac Billington, Lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Leeds.

Having analysed the CCTV footage, Stephen Green concluded that there was a black vehicle travelling in front of our client and this vehicle would have created an obstruction to our client’s sightline. The maximum potential sightline available would have been 6.1 seconds.

Dr Billington provided evidence with regards to 'looming'. Looming is where there is an increase of perceived size of an object as you approach it. Dr Billington concluded that our client would not have been able to detect whether the stationary vehicle was moving / stationary until he was 2.9 seconds away from it.

Turning to 'inattentional blindness', Dr Billington reviewed the possibility of looking at an object and missing this due to other factors. Dr Billington was of the view that this was applicable in this case as our client failed to see the illuminated hazard lights of the stationary vehicle as he had been checking his mirrors with a view to changing lanes.

Result

On the first day of the trial the experts had a joint meeting. The prosecution expert accepted Dr Billington’s evidence. Stephen Green and PC Simpson agreed that our client would have had between 1.5 and 2 seconds within which to react to the presence of the stationary vehicle and this would have been further compounded by contrast issues at the scene.

In view of the above, the prosecution offered no evidence and our client was acquitted.

Comment

Following the result Rekha Sharma, Solicitor commented;

“Whilst we are delighted with this result, which is the right outcome for our client, we are aware that this incident has resulted in serious injuries to the passenger in the stationary vehicle. Cases such as these are incredibly difficult for all concerned.

This was a difficult case from a technical perspective, it is the first time we have introduced neuropsychological evidence into the motor defence arena. Psychological response is a crucial consideration when we drive on a daily basis.

This case involved a number of highly experienced experts and a very skilled Barrister.”

David Walton, Head of Keoghs’ Motor Crime Team commented:

“Results such as this one demonstrate why Rekha is so highly regarded by both her peers and our clients. She has an impressive track record in working with individuals and corporate clients, and her client care, case management and excellent analysis of evidence delivers consistently good results.”