Wales

Pearl Black: Family call for 'justice' after toddler death

Pearl Black Image copyright Family Picture
Image caption Pearl Black was 22 months old when she died

The family of a toddler killed by a runaway car said the law should be changed so its owner can be prosecuted.

Paul Black described the "horror movie" scene when Pearl, one, died after an empty Range Rover knocked over a garden wall in Merthyr Tydfil on 6 August 2017.

Forensic tests showed the handbrake had not been applied properly by owner Andrew Williams.

After an inquest, family called for a gross negligence manslaughter charge.

A narrative conclusion was given by a coroner in Pontypridd and a statement from Pearl's family was read out afterwards.

It questioned the Crown Prosecution Service's decision to rule out criminal action because the vehicle was on private property when it began rolling down the hill.

"Our hearts are broken beyond repair and our lives will never be the same again," the statement said.

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Pearl's parents Paul and Gemma Black described their daughter as being "every single star in every single sky"

"One of the hardest things has been coming to terms with the fact that no one will be prosecuted for her death.

"The loophole in the law has stopped us from getting justice for our daughter. This is why we are now calling upon the government to change the law."

Family solicitor Richard Langdon said the family asked him to write to the CPS to review the case and bring charges of gross negligence manslaughter.

However, a spokesman responded by saying: "The CPS carried out a thorough review of the evidence and concluded the case failed to meet the evidential test for prosecution.

"We have explained the reasons behind this decision to Pearl's family and our thoughts remain with them."

Image caption People left tributes at the scene of the crash

Forensic collision investigator PC Gareth Davies said tests showed the handbrake had not been applied properly, nor was the automatic vehicle in the park gear when it was parked on the steep drive.

Mr Black, 50, said he and Pearl were returning to his mother's house after playing in the park with his son Ace.

"Then I heard the sound of rubber on the road and saw the Range Rover coming straight towards us. I shouted for it to stop because I thought there was someone in the car," he said.

"I threw Ace out the way and tried to step in front of Pearl and protect her, but then the car veered into the wall and the wall collapsed on Pearl."

He described it being like "a scene from a horror movie".

"I tried to rescue her but I could see the life going from her face. I knew she had died instantly.

"I was screaming 'she's gone, she's gone. My poor baby girl'," he added.

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Pearl Black's family said there was "a void in our lives that can never, ever be filled"

The incident happened when Andrew Williams, 51, parked in his ex-partner's drive while he dropped off his 13-year-old daughter, Katie, at her mother's house before the incident.

The long-distance lorry driver, who described himself as a "fully qualified mechanic", said he did not pull the handbrake all the way to the final click as it "isn't good for the brakes long term".

But PC Davies told the hearing the handbrake "wasn't applied efficiently" as it was on two notches out of six and the gear lever was between reverse and park.

He said the handbrake or the park gear would have been able to hold the Range Rover in place. There were no faults found on the vehicle and it had a valid MOT.

The inquest heard the brakes failed and the car rolled down the drive, across the road and mounted the footpath opposite before hitting a garden wall.

Pearl was taken to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil where she was pronounced dead from head and neck injuries.

Ace, who was eight months old at the time, was also injured, but has made a full recovery.

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Pearl's father Paul Black (left) said the family were living "hour by hour"

Mr Williams's ex-partner Gillian Price said he had been in the house for about 10 minutes before they heard a loud crash and people screaming.

They ran outside and could see Mr Black clutching his daughter and sobbing but Ms Price, a trained paramedic, could see the toddler was lifeless.

Coroner Andrew Barkley said the Range Rover would not have moved if the brake had been properly applied.

"As far as the application of the brake is concerned, he did not count the number of clicks. Sadly, as we know, that was insufficient," he added.

Giving his conclusion, Mr Barkley said Pearl's death was an accident.

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