Belfast Telegraph

PSNI officer John Wright drove over man's leg, court told

By John Cassidy

A serving PSNI officer has gone on trial for driving over a pedestrian with an armoured police vehicle and fracturing his leg while attending the scene of an arson attack in Co Down.

Constable John Wright, (42), whose address was given as c/o Downpatrick PSNI station, denies a single charge of careless driving by causing grievous bodily injury to Gary Smyth at Meadowlands in Downpatrick

On the opening day of the trial at Downpatrick Crown Court, prosecution lawyer Laura Ivers told the jury that Constable Wright was attending the scene of an arson attack with other police colleagues and emergency services in the town's Meadowlands estate on August 31, 2014.

Ms Ivers told the jury of seven men and five women: "Mr Wright agreed to move the armoured police vehicle to allow better access to the scene for fire crews.

"He moved that vehicle and struck a pedestrian, Mr Gary Smyth, causing him to fall to the ground.

"Shortly after, Mr Wright reversed the same police vehicle over the lower part of the pedestrian's body, causing him a number of serious injuries.

"It is not suggested by the prosecution that Mr Wright did this deliberately or maliciously. It is, however, the prosecution case he did this without the requisite awareness of the surroundings of the area, carelessly, by not seeing Mr Smyth, and further failed to be aware of the pedestrian who he ran over the lower part of his body."

The prosecutor told the trial, presided over by Judge Sandra Crawford, that during the incident Mr Smyth sustained a number of serious injuries, including a fractured right leg, a fractured right elbow and also a wound to his right leg.

"Mr Smyth spent some time in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he required surgery for his injuries," said Ms Ivers.

"You will hear from Mr Smyth that on the evening of Sunday, August 31, 2014 he was at his home in Meadowlands; he had a few drinks and he was settled for the night when police called to his house around 10pm and told him there was a fire in the adjacent property and he would have to leave his house.

"Mr Smyth did leave his house and then became aware of what was happening outside. He then turned to go back into his house to get some of his belongings but police officers stopped him and directed him to go down a flight of steps to get away from the fire," she added.

The court was told Mr Smyth went down the steps and towards his mother's house on the estate.

Ms Ivers continued: "Mr Smyth will say that as he was walking across the car park, he was hit from behind and he was knocked to the ground which he believed was by a car. He will say that while he was lying on the ground the car went over his leg."

Ms Ivers told the jury that they will watch CCTV footage of the incident showing the police vehicle striking Mr Smyth twice.

The jury also heard that a PSNI sergeant examined the vehicle subsequent to the incident and "found no damage" to it.

The prosecutor said that Constable Wright was interviewed in October 2014 and told police investigators that he was driving the vehicle on the evening of the incident and was moving it to give fire crews better access to the arson scene. Constable Wright explained that he reversed the vehicle and "felt a bump under the wheels and thought it was the kerb". He added that when he moved to get out of vehicle, he noticed legs under his driver's side.

"Mr Wright says he tried to get help by sounding the car horn. He remained at the scene and gave first aid." Ms Ivers told the jury that once they had heard all the evidence in the case, "you will be in no doubt of his guilt of the charge he faces". The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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