Assistant Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police dealt with by magistrates for careless driving
A senior police officer who smashed into an oncoming car while trying to make a hands-free phone call to her husband has escaped a driving ban.
Kerrin Wilson (51), assistant chief constable (ACC) of Lincolnshire Police, strayed onto the wrong side of the road moments after leaving the force headquarters and hit a Hyundai i30 travelling in the opposite direction, a court was told.
It was claimed that Wilson became "distracted" as she tried to find the Bluetooth button on the steering wheel of her Mini Countryman.
Magistrates were also told that Wilson was "unfamiliar" with the controls of her Mini because she had only just started driving the vehicle.
During the hearing at Nottingham Magistrates Court on Thursday, it was said that Wilson understood her husband – Labour MP for Sedgefield Phil Wilson had only collected the car from a garage around a week earlier.
The driver of the other car suffered whiplash injuries and bruising after being forced off the road, eventually needing hospital treatment following the crash.
Wilson, who pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention at an earlier hearing, was ordered to pay a total of £1,460 in fines and costs, with seven points added to her licence.
Mark Fielding, prosecuting, described how the accident happened in Deepdale Lane, Nettleham, at around 5.30pm on December 21, 2018.
He said: "It was dark, but a significant detail and one that was probably the reason for the crash, is that she was driving a motor vehicle that was new to her.
"The defendant pulled out of work and then decided to make a phone call using the hands-free facility in the car.
"That distracted her because the car was new to her and she took her attention off the road to look for the right button on the steering wheel.
"She crossed over the central line and was straddling the middle of the road for an appreciable period of time while looking for the button to press before she collided with an oncoming vehicle.
"It is probably a significant lack of attention while trying to make a call in a strange car."
Wilson, of Heighington, County Durham, was not in court for the hearing and her mitigation was provided through a letter from her solicitor which said that she ‘didn’t wish to attend’ the sentencing hearing.
The letter, which was read to magistrates by a court clerk, said Wilson accepted taking her eyes off the road "momentarily" to look at the steering wheel while trying to call her partner.
It added: "She had only been driving it for a week and was unfamiliar with where the buttons were.
"The next thing she heard was a bang as she collided with the other vehicle.
"She accepts the collision was due to her lack of attention to the road for a matter of seconds but she believes that she was travelling at no more than 15 miles per hour."
The court also heard that the matter was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service which recommended that Wilson should attend a "driver improvement" course held in June.
But she arrived ten minutes late for the course and was barred from taking part, later being told that she would receive a court summons.
Wilson is also being investigated for misconduct in relation to the crash and could receive a written warning.
Her solicitor’s letter added: "She has responsibility for operational matters within the police.
"Driving is an essential part of her ability to undertake her role effectively and she has never been in an accident in which she was at fault before.
"She has been a serving police officer for 26 years and has an exemplary record.
"The defendant is very aware of the dangers of the road and rhe incident has had a profound impact on her.
"She is severely remorseful and has accepted that her driving fell below the required standard."
Wilson, who married her husband in July 2016, was appointed ACC of Lincolnshire since July 2018 following a spell as Head of Cleveland and Durham (Police) Special Operations Unit.
The court was told that no trace could be found of Wilson's driving endorsements' record, meaning magistrates had to treat her licence as though it was clean.
"However, her mitigation letter claimed that she had received three points for speeding in the early 1990s.
David Clarson, chairman of the magistrates' bench, said: "Driving without due care and attention is a serious matter which can put lives at risk.
"There is no doubt that Kerrin Wilson was distracted while undertaking other activities while driving.
"Clearly there were injuries to an innocent third party and we are obliged to treat everybody in the same way, something that is particularly relevant in this case.
"We have somebody who has shown remorse, shown immediate care for the victim and has pleaded guilty at the first opportunity."