Policeman Cleared Of Dangerous Driving

A Hampshire police officer's been found not guilty of dangerous driving while he was following a stolen car - PC James Holden had been accused of putting people's lives at risk.

The minivan involved had been stolen in Petersfield, and the police officer spotted it at McDonalds in Fratton in February 2011.

During the pursuit, the minivan went through red lights, the wrong way round a roundabout and the wrong way down a dual carriageway.

It eventually smashed into level crossing barriers in Cosham and the driver was arrested.

PC Holden, who's 35 and from Titchfield, had always denied dangerous driving. He was found not guilty after a 7-day trial at Guildford Crown Court.

The 19-year-old driver of the stolen minivan was later found guilty of a string of offences, including dangerous driving, and was sentenced to four years in a Young Offenders Institution.

In a statement, Hampshire police said:

"Following the incident in Cosham on February 6, 2011, the circumstances of the pursuit were reviewed and the decision made by the Crown Prosecution Service to charge.
"This was an individual and unique case, and the CPS independently reviewed the evidence in accordance with national prosecutor guidance, known as the Charging Standard, in reaching its decision to charge.
"It is important that the justice system is transparent and that police officers are subject to the same scrutiny as members of the public.
"Police officers do a difficult job often in very difficult circumstances and the people being pursued were caught as a result of this pursuit and convicted of burglary, vehicle theft and a number of other offences.
"Every pursuit in force is reviewed by a specialist tactical advisor from the Roads Policing Unit and those that they feel have potential for organisational learning - both positive and adverse practice - are referred to the Pursuit Review Group.
"This group includes the head of Driver Standards, a senior officer from the Force Control Room, and representatives from Hampshire Police Federation and the Professional Standards Department. In this case, the panel identified a potential misconduct offence and it was transferred to PSD for further review.
"If we have concerns, we put those circumstances to the CPS to act as an independent arbiter of our actions.  To ensure the complete independence of this process we can, as in this instance, refer it to a CPS office in another county.
"Police officers involved in pursuits are subject to a high level of specialist training, adhering to national policy and codes of practice. Following the outcome of this case we will identify any organisational learning that comes out of it."