Death crash police officer loses appeal

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An off-duty Lincolnshire police inspector whose carelessness behind the wheel killed a dad-of-two in a horrific car crash has failed in a Court of Appeal bid to clear his name.

But Paul John Stubbs, 34, who was convicted of careless driving over the incident, saw his chances of keeping his job boosted when judges quashed his suspended jail term.

Stubbs, of Eshton Rise, Bawtry, was given a 36-week prison term, suspended for two years, after he was found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court last October.

He appealed against both conviction and sentence and, although three top judges upheld the guilty verdict, his sentence was downgraded to a community order.

Lord Justice Pill said the suspended jail term, which would have seen Stubbs almost certainly dismissed from the force, was not essential.

John Williamson, 49, from Bassingham Road, in Aubourn, Lincoln, died after the officer ploughed into his parked car after failing in time to spot him in the road in Burton, near Lincoln, on 1st November 2009.

In his appeal, Stubbs’ lawyers argued expert evidence of a phenomenon known as “inattentional blindness” should have been allowed into the trial.

An expert said that Stubbs may have experienced the phenomena - when people genuinely look out but still do not spot hazards - at the time of the smash.

Even though Mr Williamson’s car was visible for around 300 metres, its lights may have been shielded for a period, by which time the policeman’s focus would have been further down the road.

But Lord Justice Pill, who heard the appeal in London with Mr Justice Bean and Mrs Justice Macur, rejected the argument and upheld the conviction.

“Inattentional blindness may explain the happening of the accident, but it doesn’t follow that it necessarily excuses it,” said the appeal judge. “We have no doubt about the safety of this verdict.”

But, turning to the sentence appeal, he continued: “We have come to the conclusion that, in the circumstances of this case, a custodial sentence was not essential.”

“In the circumstances, this case could appropriately have been dealt with by a community order.”

Stubbs’ community order will involve him having to do 250 hours’ unpaid community work, but he had already completed 150 hours before the appeal hearing.

His driving ban was cut from three years to 18 months.