In the Media

Policeman free after 2am car chase

PUBLISHED February 13, 2007

PC Timothy Dunning, from Thames Valley Police, left court this week after being acquitted of a single charge of dangerous driving. He has a further trial for drink-driving to come.

An ordinary motorist who admits that they failed to stop for the police and is accused by officers of speeding, giving a false name and being obstructive would expect to be penalised.

That same driver would also fear for his motoring future if found to be allegedly twice the drink-drive limit.

Last night, motoring groups were bemused and angry that PC Dunning did not face other charges.

In a further twist to the case, the jury at Reading Crown Court was told that PC Dunning was a man of good character. After the jurors retired to consider their verdict, Alex Verdan, the court Recorder, turned to PC Dunning?s defence counsel and asked if it was correct that the officer had no previous convictions. Barrister Robert Meikle then revealed that PC Dunning had a speeding conviction and been disciplined for using alcohol while on duty.

He said: ?There is one speeding matter and another disciplinary matter.?

The jury was not recalled and they returned two hours later to pronounce the 44-year-old officer as not guilty of dangerous driving.

After the trial, motoring groups questioned why PC Dunning had not faced charges of obstruction or failing to stop.

They pointed to comments made by PC Dunning?s barrister, who told the jury: ?You may consider that in the small hours of the morning Mr Dunning behaved like a complete goodness knows what. I imagine that some of you may use more colourful words in your mind.

?What on earth was he doing? A serving police officer failing to stop and leading them on a merry dance around the countyside.?

But he went on to explain: ?You are not trying him for failing to stop, you?re not trying him for excess alcohol, you are not trying him for exceeding the speed limit. He wasn?t even charged with exceeding the speed limit.?

Last night Paul Smith, the founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign, asked: ?Is this cockup or conspiracy??

He said: ?Why was he not charged with the other offences which, on the face of it, sound as if they would have easily been proved in court? Most drivers would surely have found themselves in a different position.? Kevin Clinton, head of safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, added: ?We and the public have the right to expect the police to set the right example in the way they behave as drivers and if they drive badly or break the law, they are treated in exactly the same way as other drivers by the police and the courts.?

During the trial, the court was told that PC Dunning was spotted driving his van at 2am at high speed near his home in Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, in March last year. Marked police cars gave chase with their blue lights flashing and sirens sounding.

PC Robert Stubley, who was driving one of the vehicles, told the jury how PC Dunning refused to stop.

Another officer, acting Sergeant Peter Reid, said that the police car reached 80mph at one point in the pursuit.

Giving evidence, PC Dunning said that he failed to stop because ?it would have caused me embarrassing or potentially embarrassing conversations?.

The jury was told that PC Dunning, who has been suspended on full pay for almost a year, had earlier drunk two pints of Guinness when out for a meal and a measure of whisky at a friend?s house.

He maintained throughout the trial that he had not driven dangerously and said that he felt fine to drive.

After the trial, a spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: ?The charges are a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service.? A spokeswoman for the CPS told The Times: ?Dangerous driving is a serious offence and it encompasses the actions of the police officer. We felt it was the appropriate charge.? PC Dunning still faces a charge of drink-driving to be heard at a magistrates? court at a later date.

Case closed
  • An officer was let off a speeding fine last year in South Yorkshire, arguing that he was on an emergency call, despite picking up a Chinese takeaway on the way
  • In October Charles Fletcher, 26, a detective, was jailed for seven years for passing on sensitive information. He was being paid in Armani suits
  • A senior Manchester officer was moved from frontline duties in 2004 after being cleared of drink-driving because the officer who charged him did not follow procedure
  • An officer in Merseyside was fined for driving while talking on her mobile phone in March 2004
  • In September an officer was jailed for killing a woman while drink-driving in his new car in Berkshire