Court of Appeal upends judgment in police car crash case

The Arbitration Tribunal which had previously found a police constable to be two-thirds responsible for a collision involving his official vehicle back in 2014

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

Judge Anthony Ellul has overturned a decision by the Arbitration Tribunal which had found a police constable to be two-thirds responsible for a collision involving his official vehicle which occurred in Birkirkara in February 2014.

In its decision, the Tribunal had divided the responsibility for the crash between the two drivers, concluding that the police car had been driving too fast.

The Commissioner of Police had filed an appeal, arguing that the police car had been responding to an emergency and should have been given priority. Moreover, it was argued that the other driver was in the wrong lane whilst attempting to cut a blind corner.

The Court of Appeal observed that it was clear from the place which the impact took place in that the civilian car was on the wrong side of the road. “For the court there is no doubt that when the defendant came to exit Salvu Psaila Street and cross Wignacourt Street to enter Torri Wejter street, eh took a shortcut by going on the wrong side of the road and ignoring a stop sign…”

A sketch of the incident showed that this was clearly indicated by the accident debris, said the court.

The court ruled that it was obvious that the defendant should never have ignored the stop sign and should have turned further up the road.

The Tribunal had also ruled that the police car was speeding at the time of the impact, doing around 60km/h in a 50km/h zone, but the judge said that this, whilst possibly being a contributory factor to the incident, was overridden by the fact that the police car had been responding to an emergency and had its beacon lights on at the time. The Highway Code exempts emergency vehicles from observing the speed limit when in this situation, pointed out the court.

Besides, said the court, this was not a case where the defendant should have given way to the police car but one where he was occupying a part of the road which he shouldn’t have been on.

Had the defendant stopped where he should have, he would have easily seen the police car, ruled the court, finding him solely responsible for the incident and condemning his insurers to pay €6,806 for the damages.

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