Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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Warwickshire Police officer could not have avoided fatal collision with woman on mobility scooter

A Warwickshire police officer answering an immediate response call could not have avoided a fatal collision with a woman on her mobility scooter in Bedworth, an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found.

The collision took place on 23 January 2019 close to the Griffin public house on Coventry Road, in between Bedworth and Nuneaton, near to the A444. 

Jessie Whitehead, 74, was crossing the road at the time, and appeared not to see the marked police car which evidence indicates had its emergency lights and sirens activated. Police officers gave first aid at the scene prior to the arrival of paramedics but sadly she died in hospital later that evening. 

The investigation found the police car was travelling at appropriate speed to the category of response - at around 65 mph on the 50 mph limit carriageway – before the officer braked, immediately prior to the collision, on seeing the scooter enter the road.

The investigation examined accounts from the two officers in the police car, a number of eye-witnesses, viewed relevant CCTV and considered force policies on response driving standards.

IOPC Regional Director, Derrick Campbell, recently said:

“I again send my sympathies to the family and friends of Jessie Whitehead and everyone affected by this terribly sad event. Our investigation found that the police officer was driving at an acceptable speed relevant to an immediate response call and in line with force policy. The officer was suitably trained and qualified and sadly, despite efforts to brake, could not have avoided the tragic collision.”

The investigation concluded in August 2019 and our report was shared with Mrs Whitehead’s family, the Coroner and police force. Issuing our findings has awaited an inquest. At Warwickshire Justice Centre a jury recently (21 Febraury 2020) returned a conclusion of misadventure. The police car was responding to a report of an oil leak from a broken-down crane on a road near Nuneaton, causing a dangerous hazard at a bend.

The IOPC independently investigates a range of deaths that occur following police contact, including road traffic fatalities of pedestrians arising from police responding to emergency calls and other police traffic-related activity, as well as deaths resulting from police pursuits. Given the risks associated with both police pursuit and emergency response driving, it is important that there are appropriate levels of scrutiny of this area of policing to guard against deaths and injuries while still allowing the police to do their job effectively. Our investigations look to ensure individual accountability and identify any learning for individual forces or nationally.

We compile an annual statistical report of deaths during and following police contact in England and Wales which is available on our website. The report gives an overview of the nature and circumstances in which the deaths have happened.


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