A POLICE officer who killed a motorcyclist in a collision has escaped prosecution for causing death by careless or dangerous driving - even though she was talking on her mobile phone at the time of the crash.
The Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to charge Dorset Police special constable Collette Carpenter, 23, because there was no proof that she was holding the phone at the time of the crash. Carpenter claims that the phone was on her lap and set to loudspeaker.
While it is illegal to use a "handheld" mobile phone while driving, "hands-free" devices are allowed. However, police have the power to penalise motorists (with three points and a £60 fine) if they believe that they are distracted and not in control of their vehicle.
Carpenter pulled out of a side road in her Peugeot 206 and hit the Honda CBF1000 ridden by David Bartholomew, 54, who died of head injuries and multiple fractures after the collision in March last year. Witnesses confirmed Bartholomew was not breaking the speed limit.
Carpenter had initially claimed that she was not on the phone at the time of the crash. Later she changed her story to say she briefly took an incoming call but the phone was on her lap and on loudspeaker.
She said: ‘In the time of the first interview, I just panicked and said what I said, which I know is not the truth. I don’t know why I didn’t say about the phone. I was in shock, maybe I didn’t think it was relevant at the time. I was not distracted.’
However, Dorset Police’s accident investigator PC John Hayward, speaking to Bournemouth Coroner’s Court, said: ‘The use of her mobile phone can only have been a distraction and has very likely contributed to her not seeing the motorcyclist.'