Hereford & Worcester

Man cleared of causing friend's death despite mother's intervention

Jack McKenzie
Image caption Jack McKenzie, who was originally from Hereford, died

A man has been cleared of causing the death of his friend by careless driving in a case brought after the victim's mother wrote to the director of public prosecutions.

Joel Jones, now 24, was accused after the death of Jack McKenzie, 18, in a crash in Herefordshire in 2010.

In 2012 police wrote to Mr Jones, of Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, telling him he would not be charged.

But Fiona McKenzie appealed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr McKenzie, who was originally from Hereford, and his fellow student at Hereford Sixth Form College were in a Vauxhall Corsa when the car was involved in a collision with a seven-tonne hay baler being pulled by a tractor, Hereford Crown Court heard.

It was told Mr Jones struck the hay baler's wheel because he was driving too far to the right of the road during the crash near Peterchurch, Herefordshire, on 3 September 2010.

The prosecution said he was driving at "more speed" than was appropriate but was not exceeding the speed limit.

The court was told following the crash a Fiat Punto was also involved in a collision with the Corsa, which had been on the opposite side of the road to the tractor.

The mother told the BBC: "The fact that... I've had to fight for so long to try and find out the truth of what happened on the night that Jack was killed has meant that I actually haven't grieved for Jack.

"It's delayed realising that he's gone."

Background and the trial

3 September 2010: A Vauxhall Corsa driven by Joel Jones collides with a tractor pulling a hay baler and a Fiat Punto near Peterchurch in Herefordshire. Jack McKenzie, a front-seat passenger, dies.

February 2012: West Mercia Police writes to Mr Jones telling him he would not be charged with any offence.

November 2012: A coroner conducting an inquest into Mr McKenzie's death records a narrative verdict. It found Mr Jones had traces of cannabis and cocaine in his system, but it was unclear over whether or not this impaired his driving. Fiona McKenzie, Mr McKenzie's mother, calls for tougher drug-driving laws in the aftermath.

December 2013: After three appeals to the West Midlands branch of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) were rejected, Ms McKenzie writes to the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, who refers it to the Greater Manchester branch.

January 2014: Nazir Afzal, chief prosecutor for the CPS in Greater Manchester, writes to Ms McKenzie to say he has reversed the previous decision and will charge Mr Jones with causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol and causing death by careless driving.

October 2014: At an appeal held in Worcester Crown Court a judge drops the charge of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, after it was discovered a second blood sample held by Mr Jones's mother had been destroyed. However, the judge rules Mr Jones would face the charge of causing death by careless driving.

February 2016: The trial goes ahead, having been adjourned in June last year due to witnesses being on holiday. Mr Jones is cleared.

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