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Woman collapses in court after 999 police officer cleared over Coleraine crash

By Nevin Farrell

Published 06/10/2015

Scene of the crash involving a police car and the vehicle of Caroline Williamson
Scene of the crash involving a police car and the vehicle of Caroline Williamson
Caroline Williamson

There were dramatic scenes as a woman collapsed seconds after leaving a courtroom where a police officer was cleared of driving without due care and attention.

Constable Peter Olphert (47) had been responding with flashing lights and sirens to a traffic accident in Coleraine and was overtaking two vehicles when one of those, a Corsa driven by the woman, Caroline Williamson, turned right into a junction. Both vehicles hit a wall.

Ms Williamson had to get staples to her head and Constable Olphert received a number of injuries.

The incident happened within sight of the initial accident at Wheatsheaf Road in the town around 5pm on Saturday, July 26 last year.

After leaving the courtroom Ms Williamson collapsed inside the building and was aided by court officials, but was able to leave by car a short time later.

In court Ms Williamson said she had been driving her two daughters and a friend home and was preparing to turn right off Wheatsheaf Road into Wheatsheaf Park while travelling out of Coleraine.

She said she looked in her mirror, and seeing the road was clear, indicated and made the manoeuvre, and the next thing her car had collided with a wall.

She said she didn't know what happened and when she saw a police car she could not understand why it was there.

Dillon Hart told the court he was driving behind Ms Williamson and he said the police car "came out of nowhere, really", but he noticed it approaching and pulled into the side of the road to let it passed. He said he could see the car in front had the indicator on and was intending to turn right.

Constable Olphert entered the witness box to say he was driving a police car and had flashing lights and the siren on to get to the scene of an injury road traffic collision.

He said he exited a roundabout and was not doing any more than 50mph. The officer said he could see a Lexus car ahead of him, went to overtake, and could see the oncoming side of the road was clear, but as he was passing the junction he suddenly saw a Corsa come from the left across his path.

The prosecutor suggested Constable Olphert was driving so fast he wasn't focused on the road, but the officer said that on a 999 call his awareness levels would have been heightened.

District Judge Liam McNally said although Ms Williamson had checked her mirrors and signalled, she should have checked her mirrors again immediately before turning right. He said the case had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and he dismissed the charge against the police officer.

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