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Death crash policewoman escapes charges because ‘phone was in her lap’

Published: 19 February 2013

Updated: 20 November 2014

A policewoman who caused a crash that killed a motorcyclist while talking on her phone has escaped prosecution after saying the device was in her lap.

The Crown Prosecution Service says there is not enough evidence that Collette Carpenter, 23, committed an offence.

Carpenter, a special constable who has handed out at least six fines for using a phone while driving, pulled out of a side road into the path of David Bartholomew, 54, riding his Honda CBF1000 on the A31 in Ferndown, Dorset, on March 20 last year.  

The experienced motorcyclist and father-of-two, from Bere Regis, Dorset, died of head injuries and multiple fractures hours after the collision with Carpenter’s Peugeot 206.

Carpenter repeatedly lied to police, saying she had not been on the phone. She then claimed she had briefly taken a call before admitting she had been on the phone the entire journey. She said the device was in her lap on loudspeaker.

Witnesses said no one had been speeding at the time of the crash.

Dorset Police’s accident investigator, PC John Hayward, told Bournemouth Coroner’s Court: “The use of her mobile phone can only have been a distraction and has very likely contributed to her not seeing the motorcyclist.”

Mr Sheriff Payne recorded a verdict of accidental death at the inquest on February 11.

Asked about changing her story, Carpenter, who has been with Dorset Police for three years, said: “I don’t know why I didn’t say about the phone. I was in shock, maybe I didn’t think it was relevant at the time. I was not distracted.”

A CPS spokeswoman said there was not enough evidence to charge Carpenter with causing death by careless or dangerous driving.

Bartholomew’s partner of 12 years, Lindsey Witcombe, said after the hearing: “He wasn’t speeding. He wasn’t doing anything.

“I was hoping for justice for him. The CPS seems to have appointed themselves both judge and jury.

“He was a highly intelligent and talented man. His life was his children.”

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