Court jails Gloucestershire, UK cop who left freezing man to die

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Worcester Crown Court in England, UK has yesterday jailed a policeman after he abandoned two men unconscious on a freezing night, one of whom died. David Driver of Gloucestershire Constabulary also lied about the state he found the pair in.

Driver, who admitted misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice, has already resigned from his position as a constable. In February last year he discovered Steven Hathaway and another man apparently asleep in Bourton-on-the-Water, but failed to help them, whilst patrolling in the early hours of the morning. Ten minutes later, a member of the public found them and dialed the 999 emergency number.

Two different police officers were on-scene by 1:50 a.m. and they were able to rouse one of the men; Hathaway's pulse could not be found. Nineteen minutes later an ambulance joined the scene, but its crew too were unable to revive Hathaway and a paramedic declared him dead at 2:35 a.m. on February 19.

Following the emergency call a control room requested police officers assist; five were present in nearby Stow Police Station and heard this, amongst them Driver. According to three officers, Driver said he had already seen and tried to wake the men but left them there when he could not. These officers reported this and Driver was placed on restricted duties pending a misconduct investigation. The Independent Police Complaints Commission launched an investigation.

A post mortem would later reveal Hathaway, 25, had consumed alcohol, steroids and opiates. A contributing factor was identified in the cold weather. Driver gave a statement saying he spoke to both men, helped Hathaway to his feet and watched the duo walk away. Later, he confessed to inventing this and a notebook entry saying the same thing. He would also claim a sergeant forced him to make claims regarding the night's events; the sergeant in question denies this.

Driver also lied by claiming he had not been trained in how to respond to drunken, incapacitated people when the force was able to demonstrate he had, and by saying he had not examined the electronic police log's entry on the death. In reality, log records show he examined it repeatedly later the same morning. In light of this evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service decided to charge him and he was suspended. He resigned upon admitting the offences.

"This police officer owed a duty of care to the public and failed to exercise it when he found two young men unconscious on a very cold night," said IPCC Commissioner Rebecca Marsh. "He compounded this by repeatedly lying about the events of that night and offered a false account of his actions." In sentencing Driver for what was described as "panic borne of stupidity", Judge Alistair McCreath told him "[t]his young man may have been beyond help, but what you did was to create a risk of death or real harm."

Gloucestershire Constabulary's Assistant Chief Constable Kevin Lambert apologised to Hathaway's family outside the court and said force procedure had been reviewed in light of the death. Marsh praised the actions of the trio of officers who reported Driver's actions.

Driver was sentenced to twelve months in prison.