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Friday, 26 December 2014

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Trial halted of Cumbrian pensioner following ambulance

A judge dramatically halted the trial of great grandfather being prosecuted for tailing an ambulance which was taking his grandson’s pregnant partner to hospital.

Raymond Hingston photo
Raymond Hingston

Raymond Hingston, 74, got into trouble after his grandson’s 21-year-old partner Victoria Taylor, who was 35 weeks pregnant, began suffering stomach pains.

The pensioner was on the M6 in August last year, driving his daughter Joan Tolfrey, 49, her son Andrew Tolfrey, and Mr Tolfrey’s partner home after a family wedding. Fearing Miss Taylor was in premature labour, the pensioner pulled off the motorway and called an ambulance.

His defence barrister told Carlisle Crown Court the retired lorry driver was asked by the ambulance crew to follow them to Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital because they were treating the situation as a medical emergency.

But the pensioner ended up being charged with dangerous driving after an off-duty police officer reported having to swerve out of the way of his car as he followed the ambulance.

Hingston, of Casson Road, Workington, had earlier admitted a single charge of careless driving – which means his driving fell below that expected of a competent driver. But he denied his driving had been dangerous – defined as falling far below the proper standard.

Two hours into the trial, and after an application from defence barrister Brendan Burke, Recorder Andrew McLoughlin stopped the case, saying the prosecution evidence was “inherently vague”.

Earlier, prosecutor Kimberley Obrusik had told the jury how Miss Taylor had been suddenly taken ill during the drive along the M6.

The ambulance crew agreed to take Miss Taylor, accompanied by Joan Tolfrey, to hospital in Whitehaven and Hingston followed behind in his Citroen car for 18 miles.

“The driving that was dangerous began almost immediately on the A66.” the prosecutor said.

She said Hingston was driving so closely behind the ambulance that its driver, Lindsay Oliver, was alarmed. The barrister said an off-duty police officer driving near Thornthwaite had to swerve to avoid Hingston’s car as it raced along behind the ambulance.

Miss Obrusik also described an incident in which Hingston himself swerved to avoid a car that was rejoining the road after deviating to let the ambluance get past.

In his police interview, Hingston insisted he was never “bumper to bumper” with the ambulance because he had more sense. “I was two, three, maybe four car lengths away from her bumper,” he said.

Mr Burke told the judge: “All that we have here is a man being told to follow and ambulance and following it.” The Recorder agreed that the dangerous driving charge should not go before the jury, and directed them to deliver a not guilty verdict.

Mr Hingston, who lives on a £149 a week state pension, was given seven penalty points fined £200, and told to pay £600 prosecution costs.

He said after the case: “My only concern was Victoria and her baby, though I was also trying to look after Andrew. I was worried about them. That’s all. It’s all been very upsetting.”

Miss Taylor gave birth to a healthy baby girl, called Shelby, on September 28.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman said they had considered all evidence before pursuing the dangerous driving charge.

“The ambulance crew had been so concerned that Mr Hingston could cause an accident that they contacted the police about it. We also took into account national guidance about dangerous driving prosecutions,” she added.

“We are satisfied that the case was properly considered at each stage but accept the judge’s decision not to put the more serious charge before the jury.”

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