Three Thames Valley Police officers escaped serious punishment today despite being found guilty of misconduct over their actions leading up to a crash which killed two loved ones.
The three officers were accused of failing to make the A413 safe after an accident, which was followed by a fatal accident in which two people died just 28 minutes later.
Thames Valley Police Officers PC David Stamp, PC Hugh Flanagan and PC Caroline Irwin faced eight counts of breaching standards of professional behavior. They were deemed to be guilty of five of the counts, a misconduct hearing at Shaw House in Newbury ruled today.
PC Stamp, who has been an officer for six years was found guilty of gross misconduct, and will serve 12 months under a written warning.
PC Flanagan and PC Irwin will have no action taken against them.
The breaches relate to a fatal road traffic accident in the early hours of 4 March 2014. on the A413 between Wendover and Great Missenden.
At 5.26 am Martin Kendall’s Volkswagen Passat skidded on ice across the carriageway and ended up in a ditch. PC Stamp, PC Irwin and Flanagan were then dispatched to the scene.
Shortly after this first incident, at 5.54 am, there was a fatal road traffic collision very close to the location of Mr Kendall’s accident which was caused or contributed by ice on the carriageway.
Malcolm Tindall and Carl Bird crashed head-on into each other and died in an icy collision that left another passenger with life threatening injuries.
Mr Michael Salter, legally qualified chair of the panel said this was a “Complex and nuanced case”.
The panel heard evidence over two weeks.
The three officers were found guilty of the following five counts :
- You had a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent persons traveling on the A413 from suffering harm.
- You failed to carry out any or any sufficient investigation of the circumstances leading to Mr Kendall’s accident.
- You failed to adequately address the risk to road users posed by the ice that had caused Mr Kendall’s accident.
- You failed to request that other officers attend the scene of Mr Kendall’s accident with appropriate warning signs.
- You left the scene of Mr Kendall’s accident without ensuring that the carriageway was safe for other road users to use.
Superintendent Yvette Hitch, giving antecedal evidence said all three were excellent police officers who had exhibited excellent public service, adding she would be more than happy to keep all of them to remain in her unit.
The hearing heard PC Flanagan experienced a loss of traction while attending the initial road traffic incident. He also noticed a taxi skidding to a halt when leaving the scene, along with “ a momentary loss of traction” when turning around near Mapridge Cottage. He said felt ‘on the edge of control’ while driving throughout that evening.
Mr Banham, defending said: “They have told the truth about the circumstances of their attendance, and at no stage either during the proved breaches have the officers honesty or integrity been undermined in any way.
“It’s quite right members of the public would expect officers to act with honesty and integrity throughout their careers.
‘There are often judgement calls to be made by officers, some are right, some are wrong. The panel have heard about the cirumstances of the incident and it’s clear that the officers actions were outside of what would been expected, and that is why there is a breach of professional standards found.
“The officers have exhibited poor judgement at the scene, but not that he deliberately decided knowing a specific hazard, just that he did not investigate properly.
“It’s not in the public interest for otherwise commendable careers to end in an isolated incident of misconduct.”
Summing up, legal chair of the panel Michael Salter said: “This was an isolated and objective failure. These officers had no motive and there was no breach of trust.
“These officers have shown good character both pre and post incident.”
Deputy Chief Constable John Campbell said: “After carefully considering all of the evidence the panel concluded that the officers’ conduct amounted to gross misconduct and misconduct and they were in breach of the standards of professional behaviour; namely duties and responsibilities and discreditable conduct. PC Stamp has been issued with a written warning and PC Flanagan and PC Irwin will be given management advice. They have been left in no doubt about the seriousness of their actions.
“The Force’s response to the incidents has been subject to an independent investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)
“I will ensure that we continue to review the circumstances and where improvements to policy and procedures are identified, these will be implemented across the Force to ensure we deliver the best possible service to our communities.
“Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of the deceased men, Carl Bird and Malcolm Tindall, and everyone who has been affected by the tragic events almost three years ago.”