Prosecution forced to offer no evidence after cross-examination by Defence Counsel, Richard Dawson

Richard Dawson successfully defended “DF”, a professional driver, who was charged with multiple allegations of causing death by dangerous driving; causing serious injury by dangerous driving; and dangerous driving, following a fatal road traffic collision.

“DF” appeared first on the indictment, co-accused with “NG”, the owner of the trailer being towed by the HGV, owned and driven by “DF”.  “NG” was charged with aiding and abetting “DF”.

The Prosecution case was authorised following an accident caused by a motorcar which pulled out of a side road onto an A-road, into the path of the oncoming HGV, being driven by “DF”.  The inevitable collision, tragically caused the death of the passenger in the car and left the driver with catastrophic, life-changing, injuries.

When pressed, the Prosecution admitted that the primary cause of the collision was the driver of the car pulling out immediately in front of the HGV.  In the prevailing circumstances, the car driver’s decision was fundamentally flawed.  Evidentially, he too would have been charged with a “causing death by” driving offence.  However, the charging decision was withdrawn on a public interest basis.

Notwithstanding, the Prosecution alleged that there was a case to answer by both “DF” and “NG” because there were brake defects to both the HGV tractor unit and the articulated horse box trailer that it was towing.  It was alleged that the brake defects were such that the tractor/trailer combination was in a dangerous condition, so that it should not have been on the public highway.  It was alleged that the brake defects were contributory factors to the collision, so that this was dangerous driving.  It was alleged that the dangerous brake defects would have been obvious to a competent, careful driver – obvious even on only a cursory examination.

The Prosecution further alleged various regulatory breaches, which they asserted were contributory to the collision.  These included breaches of drivers’ hours regulations (insufficient break and rest time); fraudulent misuse of the tachograph; and breaches of animal welfare regulations.

At the very outset of these criminal proceedings, the Defence identified a variety of concerns regarding the Police investigation.  Concerns were raised regarding the nature and manner of the investigation and later testing conducted by the Police collision investigation experts.  Furthermore, concerns were raised regarding the lack of and manner of disclosure of unused material by the Police and Prosecution (failures to correctly schedule unused material; failures to disclose unused material which undermined the Prosecution case and/or assisted the Defence case).

Following a comprehensive review of the unused material, the Defence identified a significant additional braking system fitted to the HGV, which had not been tested – or even noted – by the Police forensic collision investigation experts.  The Police had enlisted the assistance of the DVSA to conduct initial testing of the vehicle.  Albeit the DVSA Officer noted in passing the presence of the additional braking system, he did not test it or make any mention of its relevance or significance in the context of a case predicated on “defective bakes”.  In the course of evidence, however, the DVSA Officer conceded that the brake defects would not have been obvious to a professional driver conducting daily walk-around checks.

Repeated Defence applications for further disclosure resulted in new evidence being served on each day of the trial, which ran for 7 days.

Despite requests to the Prosecution to review and reconsider the case, by application of the evidential test, both in light of the deficiencies in their own case and in light of served Defence expert evidence (both collision reconstruction and vehicle examination), the Prosecution were undeterred and refused to reconsider the merits of the prosecution.

However, following a robust cross-examination of the principle Prosecution expert witness (the principle Police forensic collision investigator) by Richard Dawson, which secured a host of concessions (including, regarding the alleged brake defect on the HGV, that he could not say what the defect was; how it had been caused; or when it had been caused – so that he could not say that it was pre-existing, rather than caused by the collision; and that even it had been pre-existing, it would have made negligible difference to the cause of the collision), the Prosecution were forced to reconsider their earlier decision regarding the merits of the case.

As a result, before even completing and closing their case, the Prosecution offered no further evidence against each count on the indictment – resulting in Not Guilty verdicts on all charges for both “DF” and “NG”, on the direction of the Judge.

Richard was instructed by Sam Healey at JMW Solicitors; and worked closely with Sam, together with Jade Halliday-Mitchell and Emily Hughes, in the course of preparing for and presenting the case at trial.

Sam Healey, Partner at JMW:

“The cross-examination by Mr Dawson of Counsel left the Prosecution collision expert speechless.  Our meticulous preparation of the Defence case allowed the cross-examination to expose the true failures of the Prosecution expert.  The line of questioning was perfectly executed, expertly delivered and devastated the Prosecution case, ultimately leading to the acquittal of the Defendant.”

Richard Dawson and Sam Healey are expert trial lawyers, specialising in road traffic law, defending drivers charged with offences arising out of catastrophic or fatal accidents.

To view Richard’s full profile, click here.