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PC guilty of dangerous driving

A British Transport Police officer has been found guilty of dangerous driving at Southwark Crown Court.

23 August 2012

A British Transport Police officer has been found guilty of dangerous driving at Southwark Crown Court following an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into a crash, which left a promising actor and singer/ songwriter in intensive care. Sentencing was adjourned until October.

The collision took place on 31 March 2011 between a British Transport Police van driven by PC David Lynch, 30, and Pepe Belmonte (31) who was cycling to his girlfriend's house.

Mr Belmonte, who had been due to release his first album ‘The Hermit’s Waltz’ and start a tour to promote it, had cycled over a hump-backed bridge on Queensbridge Road, Hackney when the vehicle driven by PC Lynch, which was travelling at high speed, drove over the bridge, hitting Mr Belmonte from behind.

Witnesses to the collision described Mr Belmonte being catapulted over the handlebars and hitting a tree. Mr Belmonte sustained brain, spinal, knee and facial injuries as well as a broken right elbow and little finger and psychological injury.

He was in an induced coma for 9 days and underwent several operations. His head and associated brain injury mean that he is likely to be left with permanent cognitive impairment. He has undergone further surgery to his knee and will require further surgery in respect of his facial injuries.

He continues to experience severe problems with his spine and has had to relearn to play the guitar to taking into account his injuries.

Christine Tallon from the personal injury team at law firm Leigh Day & Co, said in a statement today:

“We consider that today’s verdict is the correct one. The Police are given a mandate by the public to respond to emergencies at speed, however, safety must be paramount. PC Lynch’s dangerous driving in fact caused an emergency and prevented those officers in the van from reaching the emergency to which they had originally been assigned.

“It is more through sheer luck than judgment that PC Lynch has not been in Court facing a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

“The Court has heard powerful testimony from witnesses to PC Lynch’s driving. These include PC Thomas who was travelling in the van and who described it as going too fast just before the incident. Those outside the van portrayed it as being ‘out of control’ after it hit the ground, having lifted over a foot in the air as it crossed the bridge, before hitting Mr Belmonte at 45mph from behind and propelling him into a tree.

“This type of driving was dangerous and this verdict is therefore the correct one. It sends a powerful message to all drivers, especially those who deem themselves competent at speed, to slow down and consider what is both seen and unseen on the roads.

“The actions of PC Lynch have left Mr Belmonte with life changing injuries from which he continues to suffer. He was on the brink of making his musical breakthrough with his debut album at the time of this incident. He remains a talented young musician and is fighting hard to get his career and his life back on track.

“Mr Belmonte and his family are grateful to the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC, who brought the file to the attention of the CPS. We continue to act on Mr Belmonte’s behalf in a civil action against the British Transport Police and given today’s verdict we expect the insurers to now focus on assisting Mr Belmonte with his rehabilitation.“

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