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Police officer to face court over road crash

A police officer charged with careless driving will return to Magistrates’ Court after the Supreme Court ruled that she did have a case to answer.

Latasha Celestine, a police officer, was charged with the offence after a traffic collision involving herself – who was driving a marked police vehicle – and a pregnant motorcycle rider travelling with her young son in 2019.

Magistrate Tyrone Chin ruled in September 2020 that Ms Celestine had no case to answer, but the Crown launched an appeal against the decision and sought for the matter to be retried before another magistrate.

In a decision dated April 19, Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams found that Ms Celestine did have a case to answer and remitted the matter back to the lower courts.

“The Crown’s case consisted of clear evidence that the Respondent collided with another vehicle while executing a turn onto another road,” Mrs Justice Subair Williams said.

“The complainant said she remained in her rightful lane and she stated in her evidence that she was travelling on a straight path.

“She said she was not speeding. This evidence is sufficient for the Crown to avoid a dismissal of its case.”

The Court heard that on the morning of February 13, 2019 Ms Celestine was driving a police car in the area of St David’s Road and Stock’s Road when she collided with a motorcycle ridden by Hadas Wolffe.

Ms Wolffe was pregnant at the time and her seven-year-old in front of her on the motorcycle.

She told the court that she was travelling West on St David’s Road when Ms Celestine drove though her lane and onto Stock’s Road, causing a collision.

Ms Wolffe and her son were both injured and her motorcycle suffered serious damage.

Pc Rawle Massiah, who attended the scene, said witnesses had reported Ms Wolffe was travelling at a reasonable rate of speed and could have done nothing to avoid the collision.

He said that Ms Celestine gave no reason why she did not see the motorcycle, although she had said she had repeatedly adjusted the vehicles’ sun visor.

Detective Constable Peter Thompson, who photographed the scene, meanwhile mentioned in his evidence that he had to delay taking pictures that faced east because the sun was shining directly into the camera.

Mr Chin noted the evidence of both Mr Thompon and Pc Massiah and found that the sun had likely contributed to the collision.

The magistrate said: “Each of those relevant statements persuaded the court that the sun did impact the ability of the defendant to drive her vehicle however brief even though she took precaution by driving when her headlights on, indicated right, stopped and used her sun visor.

“The evidence which rather swayed the Court was the DC Thompson was forced to delay taking photographs facing east due to impact of the sun.

“A camera is not dissimilar to the human eye. The Defendant was driving and facing in an easterly direction.”

Mr Chin ruled there was no case to answer, but the Crown appealed on the basis that he applied the wrong test to determine if there was a case to answer.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams found in favour of the application, saying: “Whether or not the blazing sun was a factor at the time the accident occurred and whether or not any such factor would give rise to a successful defence to careless driving was not a matter for speculation by the magistrate.

“This was a matter for the defence to raise in evidence on its own case. The respondent clearly had a case to answer which could only be defeated by the defence establishing that the respondent took all reasonable steps to avoid the collision which ensued.

“In my judgment, there was a prima facie case raised by the Crown that the respondent’s manner of driving fell below the standard expected of a reasonably competent and careful driver.”