A POLICE officer who knocked down and killed a pensioner while on duty has been allowed to keep his job.
Pedestrian Leslie Wakefield died aged 80 after being hit by Cheshire Police’s unmarked car on Warrington Road in Penketh.
PC Matthew Foy, who was at the wheel, today faced a gross misconduct hearing at Constabulary Headquarters in Winsford in relation to his actions on the night in question.
An independent panel heard the 48-year-old was driving a black BMW 3 Series while patrolling the A562 shortly before 7.30pm on Monday February 3, 2020, when he was picked up by a white Toyota Aygo which started at high speed.
The specialist forward driver then began to follow the other car and reached speeds of up to 68mph in a 30mph zone, but did not activate his siren or hazard warning lights.
Mr Wakefield was then struck by PC Hoy as he entered the carriageway towards Widnes from Central Reserve near the level crossing near the Red Lion pub, approximately 30m ahead of the oncoming police vehicle .
He suffered multiple injuries in the collision and died “very quickly” afterwards.
The officer was charged with “dishonorable conduct” for failing to activate his emergency warnings “while traveling at high speed in a residential area”.
It was described at Wednesday’s hearing as being “disproportionate to a relatively minor traffic offence”.
Barney Branston, who appeared via video link while representing Cheshire Police, said: ‘If PC Foy had correctly assessed the risk to pedestrians in a built-up area with people going about their business, we say that he would have activated his emergency warning signs.
“In all likelihood this would have alerted Mr Wakefield to the presence of an unmarked police car.
“This car, at its fastest, was 2mph below the freeway speed limit in an area where it was 30mph – way more than double that in any view.
“Our assessment is that he was too focused on the other vehicle, and we suggest he had some sort of tunnel vision.
“PC Foy could have reasonably foreseen such harm.
“It is, it is said, a gross fault and so serious that the dismissal is justified.”
However, the panel – which played dashcam footage of the incident – found that the “remorseful” copper, from Warrington, had no case to answer.
In conclusion, Chairman Paul Forster said: ‘What he did was for a clear policing purpose and there was an operational necessity.
“In our opinion, he did not go outside the parameters of what could be considered reasonable.
“What he did was in accordance with his training and in these circumstances his conduct is not considered dishonorable.
“We therefore dismiss the case against PC Foy.”
The Warrington Guardian understands that no action has been taken against the motorist whose driving prompted PC Hoy, who first joined the force in 2003, to ‘survey’ the other vehicle to gather evidence for a possible prosecution.
Detective Superintendent Helena Banusic, head of Cheshire Police’s Professional Standards Department, said following the hearing: ‘First of all, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Mr Wakefield’s family.
“I can only imagine the pain they have endured over the past two years, and I recognize that it has not been helped by the process they have had to go through and the time it has taken.
“While nothing can be done to bring Mr Wakefield back, I hope that after hearing all the details his family can begin to rebuild their lives after this process is concluded.”
Mr. Wakefield’s son-in-law was present during the proceedings.
Deputy Chief Constable Chris Armitt added: “I would like to express my sympathy to the family of Mr Wakefield following this tragic incident.
“As a police service, it is essential that the people of Cheshire have both confidence and trust in the service we provide and I understand that incidents like this can cause concern within our communities.
“That is why it is essential that, in cases of this nature, investigations are carried out independently of the force, ensuring that there can be no bias or prejudice.
“In this case, the independent panel found that PC Foy followed all relevant procedures and could have done nothing more to avoid the collision.
“It is truly a tragedy for everyone involved.”