The defendant was a man aged 32 and was charged with causing death by dangerous driving. Clearly, this is an "indictable only" offence and we sent it straight to the Crown Court but as usual, not before the prosecution had demonstrated that there was a case to answer.
It seems the bloke was driving his Ford Focus with a friend in the passenger seat. The car went out of control and hit a tree head on.
The passenger died at the scene and the driver is now in a wheelchair, having suffered spinal injuries, classified as paraplegic.
The defendant had stated in his initial interview that the car "just went out of control". However, the traffic investigation officer was concerned because the skid marks at the scene indicated an unusually high speed bearing in mind a witness statement that the car in question had been stationary at traffic lights about 100 yards before the point of impact.
The bloke's insurance company were also concerned and had the car examined, finding several examples of modifications which hadn't been declared including non standard wheels, lighting, brake disks, exhaust etc.
We heard that the insurance company were about to commission an in depth examination of the vehicle but the Police by that time had arranged examination by the forensic science service, on instruction from the CPS.
We had sight of the report by the forensic science officer which was very comprehensive. One of the things they did was refer the chassis number to Ford who provided them with detailed performance figures which included, amongst other details, the rated power and torque of the engine, both at the wheels and at the flywheel. The FS people removed the engine and ancillaries and ran it on a test bench under conditions specified by Ford where it was found to be capable of producing approximately 21% more power and torque than it should have been able to, the values being corrected for humidity, temperature and ambient air pressure. The precise readings were in the report but I can't remember the numbers, just the calculated percentage.
The engine was dismantled and all internal components were found to be standard. The author of the report concluded that the performance increase was due to "A significant change in the standard fuelling, timing and ignition parameters." That is to say, a re-map. The author of the report further concluded that the performance of the car, prior to the collision, was "Significantly beyond the capabilities of the brakes and suspension."
We understand that the appropriate EPROM was extracted from the engine management system and will be compared data bit by data bit, with the standard data, provided by Ford. That will be provided if required, when the case is heard at the Crown Court.
A forensic science officer is considered to be an expert witness and as such, the Court will be entitled to accept his professional opinion as fact.
At a subsequent re-interview, the defendant admitted responsibility for the modifications and told the Police that there was "no way" the re-map could have been discovered within the engine management system as the individual who installed the modification "Guaranteed it was transparent", whatever that means.
The defendant's insurance company, following the publication of the report, have refused to accept liability in the matter, leaving the 32 year old father of five children, paralysed from just below the chest down, with no recompense. The family of the passenger, a 24 year old man with one child, will have to pursue the defendant and possibly his insurers, through the civil Court.
Based upon my experience, the defendant will receive a substantial custodial sentence.
I have to say that, being an engineer myself, on a purely objective basis, the forensic science report made fascinating reading.
On another level, this was a case I wish I hadn't had to deal with. Members of both families were in Court.
Unfortunately, this is not the first case of it's type I've been involved with and I feel sure it will not be the last.