A POLICEMAN has been cleared of dangerous driving over his pursuit of a stolen vehicle.
After an hour and 10 minutes of deliberations a 12-strong jury found PC James Holden not guilty following a seven-day trial at Guildford Crown Court.
Qualified advanced driver PC Holden, 35, who works at Fratton Roads Policing Unit, had denied dangerous driving in relation to his pursuit of a stolen Renault Kangoo minivan being driven by a prolific offender through Portsmouth on February 6 last year.
PC Holden pursued the vehicle - which had been reported stolen during a house burglary in the Petersfield area earlier that day - after spotting it at McDonalds at The Pompey Centre in Fratton.
The minivan went through red traffic lights, the wrong way round a roundabout and on the wrong side of a dual carriageway before smashing through level crossing barriers outside Cosham train station.
PC Holden did not go through the barriers.
The minivan driver, Louis Bibby, 19, who was on bail at the time, was arrested nearby after abandoning the vehicle.
His woman passenger was also held.
Bibby, who has 145 previous convictions, later admitted a string of offences at Portsmouth Crown Court including dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and without insurance, aggravated vehicle taking causing damage and two counts of burglary with intent to steal.
He was sentenced to four years in a Young Offenders Institution.
In a statement, Hampshire Constabulary said: ‘Following the incident in Cosham on February 6, 2011, the circumstances of the pursuit were reviewed and the decision made by the Crown Prosecution Service to charge.
‘This was an individual and unique case, and the CPS independently reviewed the evidence in accordance with national prosecutor guidance, known as the Charging Standard, in reaching its decision to charge.
‘It is important that the justice system is transparent and that police officers are subject to the same scrutiny as members of the public.
‘Police officers do a difficult job often in very difficult circumstances and the people being pursued were caught as a result of this pursuit and convicted of burglary, vehicle theft and a number of other offences.
‘Every pursuit in force is reviewed by a specialist tactical advisor from the Roads Policing Unit and those that they feel have potential for organisational learning – both positive and adverse practice – are referred to the Pursuit Review Group.
‘This group includes the head of Driver Standards, a senior officer from the Force Control Room, and representatives from Hampshire Police Federation and the Professional Standards Department. In this case, the panel identified a potential misconduct offence and it was transferred to PSD for further review.
‘If we have concerns, we put those circumstances to the CPS to act as an independent arbiter of our actions. To ensure the complete independence of this process we can, as in this instance, refer it to a CPS office in another county.
‘Police officers involved in pursuits are subject to a high level of specialist training, adhering to national policy and codes of practice. Following the outcome of this case we will identify any organisational learning that comes out of it.’