Lincolnshire Police assistant chief constable fined for careless driving
A senior police officer who smashed into an oncoming car while trying to make a hands-free phone call to her MP husband escaped a driving ban today (Thursday).
Kerrin Wilson, the assistant chief constable of Lincs Police, strayed onto the wrong side of the road moments after leaving the force’s headquarters and hit a Hyundai i30 travelling in the opposite direction, a court was told.
It was claimed the 51-year-old became “distracted” as she tried to find the Bluetooth button on the steering wheel of her Mini Countryman, and was “unfamiliar” with the controls because she had only just started driving the vehicle.
Nottingham Magistrates’ Court heard her husband – Phil Wilson, the Labour MP for Sedgefield – had only collected it from a garage about a week earlier.
The driver of the other car, Leanne Storr, suffered whiplash and bruising after being forced off the road, and had to be taken to hospital following the crash.
Wilson, who pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention at an earlier hearing, was ordered to pay a total of £1,460 in fines and costs, and had seven points added to her licence.
Mark Fielding, prosecuting, described how the accident happened in Nettleham, Lincs, at around 5.30pm on December 21 last year.
He said: “It was dark. Significantly, and probably the reason for the crash, is that she was driving a motor vehicle that was new to her.
“She pulled out of work and then decided to make a phone call using the hands-free facility in the car.
“That distracted her because the car was new to her. She took her attention off the road to look for the right button on the steering wheel.
“She crossed over the central line and was straddling the middle of the road for an appreciable period of time while looking for the button to press, and collided with an oncoming vehicle.
“It is probably a significant lack of attention while trying to make a call in a strange car.”
Wilson, of Heighington, County Durham, didn’t appear in court, and her mitigation was provided via a letter from her solicitor, which said she ‘didn’t wish to attend’ the sentencing hearing.
The letter, which was read to magistrates by a court clerk, said Wilson accepted taking her eyes off the road “momentarily” to look at the steering wheel while trying to call her partner.
It added: “She had only been driving it for a week and was unfamiliar with where the buttons were.
“The next thing she heard was a bang, and she collided with the other vehicle.
“She accepts the collision was due to her lack of attention to the road for a matter of seconds. She believes she was travelling at no more than 15 miles per hour.”
The court heard the matter was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, which recommended Wilson attend a ‘driver improvement’ course in June.
But she arrived 10 minutes late for the course and was barred from taking part - then told she would receive a court summons.
Wilson is also being investigated for misconduct in relation to the crash, and could receive a written warning.
Her solicitor’s letter added: “She has responsibility for operational matters.
“Driving is an essential part of her ability to undertake her role effectively. She has never been in an accident in which she was at fault.
“She has been a serving police officer for 26 years, and has an exemplary record. She is very aware of the dangers of the road.
“The incident has had a profound impact on her. She is severely remorseful. She has accepted her driving fell below the required standard.”
The court heard no trace could be found of Wilson's driving endorsements record, meaning magistrates had to treat her licence as though it was clean - although her mitigation letter claimed she had received three points for speeding in the early 1990s.
David Clarson, chairman of the bench, said: “Driving without due care and attention is a serious matter which can put lives at risk.
“There is no doubt Kerrin Wilson was distracted while undertaking other activities while driving.
“Clearly there were injuries to an innocent third party.
"We are obliged to treat everybody in the same way, and that is particularly relevant in this case.
"In this case we have somebody who has shown remorse, shown immediate care for the victim, and has pleaded guilty at the first opportunity."
Wilson married her MP husband at the Houses of Parliament in July 2016. She was temporary Chief Superintendent of Durham Police at the time, and has been in her role at Lincolnshire Police for six months.
In May this year Mr Wilson tweeted a picture of the couple before they attended a garden party with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, telling his followers that she was ‘one of only two BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) Chief Police officers in the UK’.