Sussex

Pc cleared over Uckfield fatal sports car crash

Pc Stewart Chalmers
Image caption Pc Stewart Chalmers lost control of his vehicle on the A26 near Uckfield

An off-duty Sussex police officer has been found not guilty of killing a young man through careless driving.

Pc Stewart Chalmers, 31, lost control of his vehicle on an icy stretch of the A26 near Uckfield on 14 February 2009.

Maidstone Crown Court heard Luke Bland, 20, of Uckfield, died when he was struck by the sports car and thrown into the air.

Sussex Police said it would now consider whether Pc Chalmers should face disciplinary action.

In a statement after he was cleared, spokesman Supt Steve Barry said the consequences of his actions would "remain with him forever".

"The events of that night back in February 2009 demonstrate that all road users have an enormous responsibility for their actions when they take to the road and that a moment's lapse can have serious repercussions for even the most skilled and conscientious of them."

Felt 'numb'

Pc Chalmers had denied causing death by careless driving.

He had told jurors during his trial that he had felt "numb" after learning a man had been killed.

He recalled how he was heading home to Uckfield following a shift at the road policing unit at Hove, and was possibly doing 55mph on the 50mph limit road in his high-powered Lotus Exige.

The traffic officer said he had seen the glow of headlights on the country road moments before the crash, believing them to be from an oncoming vehicle.

The court was told he was aware of "some movement" of a pedestrian on the pavement when suddenly his car started to skid.

He said: "It was completely unexpected. I slid roughly half-way across the road and I was sliding down at an angle.

Image caption Luke Bland died at the scene after landing in a garden pond on the A26

Pc Chalmers said he attempted to steer out of the skid and added: "At the time I tried to correct it, I realised that I was on course with the other car.

"I was still under the impression it was moving."

In fact, jurors heard the car - a Peugeot 206 - had left the rural unlit road earlier on a bend and gone into a hedge outside a cottage.

Standing at the roadside were a group of people, including Mr Bland and the Peugeot's driver, Ben Blackford, who were struck by Pc Chalmers's car.

Mr Bland was killed on impact while Mr Blackford needed medical attention at the scene before being taken to hospital.

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