A FEW seconds could have made a difference over the death of a South Tyneside man who was knocked down and killed by a police car responding to an emergency, a senior police officer told an inquest.
Chief Inspector Andrew Huddleston, of Durham Constabulary, said that timing was a “tragic” factor in the death of Vincent Gibson.
Mr Gibson, 50, of Shaw Avenue, Biddick Hall, South Shields, died after he was hit by a police car as he crossed the road in Whiteleas Way, South Shields, on January 7, 2012.
The father-of-two died from his injuries, and an inquest, led by South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney, is being held at Moot Hall in Newcastle.
Mr Gibson was pronounced dead at South Tyneside District Hospital, and his death was subject to an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), led by Durham Constabulary.
Chi Insp Huddleston told the jury he was the senior investigating officer in the matter.
He said that, following his investigation, the IPCC chose not to refer the case to the Criminal Prosecution Service.
He said: “For me, without doubt, the timing was absolutely tragic. Thirty seconds earlier or 30 seconds later, this collision would not have occurred.
“The speed of the police vehicle was a factor I was asked to consider. It was in line with police driver training and the speed the officer was driving was reasonable.”
Throughout the hearing, a 10-minute response time for Grade One emergency calls has been referred to, but jury members were told this was not imposed on drivers and is simply a way for the force to measure its performance.
When asked about the response time, Chief Insp Huddleston said: “It is irrelevant to driver training. It’s all about the road in front of you.
“If you can get there at 100mph in two minutes then so be it. It might make a difference when you get there in time to save someone’s life.”
In earlier evidence, it was revealed that the police car’s maximum speed was 66mph.
His evidence followed that of Northumbria Police Temporary Chief Superintendent Deborah Ford.
Chief Supt Ford explained the various gradings given to 999 calls and said that the call officers were dealing with was designated as a Grade One.
The emergency response was to a man threatening to harm himself, meaning officers needed to get there “as quickly and as safely as possible”.
Chief Supt Ford said she was in no doubt that the call should have been a Grade One.
Earlier in the hearing, Mr Carney had raised concern over the mapping system which the police’s controllers can use to identify where officers and cars are at any given time.
Mr Carney raised questions over whether this map should have been checked to see if other officers were closer to the scene than the ones who “shouted in” for the job.
Chief Supt Ford said the mapping system which was in place at the time was unreliable and could freeze, but the resource controller was right to ask officers in the vicinity to attend.
She also said that, since the incident, a new and better mapping system has been put in place.
She said the procedure of replacing it had already begun prior to this incident.
Chief Supt Ford said she believed all police staff acted accordingly in dealing with the emergency call from a potential suicide.
IPCC investigator Lindsay Harrison also gave evidence at the inquest.
She said: “Was the incident the officers were responding to correctly graded at Grade One? I’m satisfied it was in line with procedures.
“Should two cars have been sent to the call? I’m happy this should have been the case.
“There was a threat to life and the man would not give his location.”
The jury is today expected to consider its findings in the inquest of Vincent Gibson.
Evidence concluded yesterday and South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney told the 10 jurors: “We have heard all the evidence you are going to hear.
“Tomorrow you will hear from me. I will be giving you formal direction around the evidence we have heard.
“I will be directing you, advising you, guiding you on the issues that you have to address and ultimately answer those questions that I talked about in the very beginning, leading to your conclusions and findings in this matter.”
* The hearing continues.