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Police car crash death 'tragic' - coroner

Thu June 21, 2012 10:05pm

THE death of an 80-year-old man in a crash involving a police car on Christmas Day was a terrible and tragic accident, a New South Wales coroner has found.

Deputy State Coroner Sharon Freund found today that the police officer involved in the collision with Roy Fulton at Bathurst on December 25, 2010, was travelling at an appropriate speed, given that he was responding to an emergency.

However, she urged the NSW Commissioner of Police to consider implementing education for all police officers on critical incident guidelines for police in the wake of the accident.

The inquest heard police officers were chasing after a man on foot in Bathurst when Leading Senior Constable Phillip Mounce-Stephens decided to drive to the scene "code red", which is the most urgent level of response.

Sen Const Mounce-Stephens was driving at about 100-110 km/h when he hit Mr Fulton's car.

Mr Fulton, an 80-year-old man described by his family as "the glue that bound his siblings together", died later that day at Bathurst Base Hospital.

The inquest heard Sen Const Mounce-Stephens was wearing an elf hat at the time of the incident.

"Much was made of this elf hat during the course of this inquest, not because there was anything inherently wrong with it being worn by Leading Senior Constable Mounce-Stephens or that it contributed to the collision in anyway but because quite simply the perception of transparency of the investigation was paramount," Ms Freund said in her findings.

Ms Freund found it was appropriate for Sen Const Mounce-Stephens to proceed to the scene "code red" as the officer on the ground sounded "panicked and rushed" and his was the only patrol car in the area.

"The manner of driving of Leading Sen Const Mounce-Stephens, including the speed he was travelling at, was appropriate in the circumstances," Ms Freund said.

However, she found that after the collision there was confusion between various police officers about the critical incident investigation guidelines.

Ms Freund found the death of Roy Fulton was "a terrible and tragic accident that has impacted the lives of his loved ones".

She made no formal findings.

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