Pensioner not guilty of death by dangerous driving

Ann Diggles car mounted the pavement on Sumner Street
Ann Diggles car mounted the pavement on Sumner Street
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A pensioner has been found not guilty of causing the death of a Leyland mum by dangerous or careless driving.

Pedestrian Julie Dean, 53, was struck as she left the St Catherine’s charity shop on Sumner Street in Leyland on July 7, 2014.

Pensioner Ann Diggles' car was seen to mount the pavement by eyewitnesses, who described the car as being out of control during her trial.

Preston Crown Court previously heard Mrs Diggles parked on the opposite side of the road on double yellow lines, intending to display her disabled badge, when she saw a space become free in a designated parking bay.

In her police interview, she said her car “took off” and that she had pressed the brake but “nothing happened.”

The car came to rest on Mrs Dean who died at the scene from her injuries.

The court heard collision investigator PC Richard Harrison located tyre marks on the road believed to be “acceleration marks” and the prosecution’s case was that she had pressed the accelerator instead of the brake, causing it to shoot forward.

Diggles'[ defence team argued the incident was caused by a complex electrical scenario known as a “sudden acceleration incident” and that the electronic transmission of a car malfunctioned and caused the car to accelerate without any input from Mrs Diggles.

Nissan Motors even flew in an expert from Japan to give evidence in the case, alongside various other motoring and engineering experts.
Speaking after the case

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “In 2015, vehicle defects were a contributory factor in at least 35 fatal accidents.

“The majority involved problems with brakes and tyres. By contrast driver error was a factor in at least 1,000 crashes where someone died.

“Any responsible car manufacturer will note the results of court cases and inquest hearings, and keep the road worthiness of their models under review.”
Mrs Dean’s family were not available for comment after yesterday’s verdict.

Statement from Nissan

After the Nissan Qashqai’s launch in February 2007 it became Europe’s number one car in its segment, with 3.3 million sold across the globe.
A spokesman for the Japanese car manufacturer today insisted the outcome of the case did not reflect on the Qashqai’s safety.
He said: “First and foremost our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of Julie Dean.
“The vehicle in this case was examined by Nissan and by the police. At no point was any fault found with the vehicle which could have caused this accident.
“This verdict does not reflect on the safety of the vehicle, the only issue to be decided in this case was whether the driving of the defendant was dangerous or careless and caused the death of the victim. The prosecution was unable to prove this beyond reasonable doubt.
“The Qashqai has an exemplary safety record, and has been tested and complies with all safety regulations in all markets.
“Both Nissan and the police have concluded that the vehicle was operating as expected and with no fault that could have contributed to this tragic set of circumstances.”
But it is further pressure for the firm, two days after other media organisations reported it was being urged to recall one of its 4x4 pick-up trucks, the Navara, after receiving reports it can snap in half.
There were mixed comments about the car, which retails for around £17,595, on the Nissan Qashqai Owners Club with many singing its praises but others highlighting faults and complaints.
Commenting after the verdict, motoring organisation the AA has said the industry has an excellent system in place to deal with suspected faults.
A spokesman said: “There is a robust system in place to look at issues that may be safety related.
“There is a clear process for the authorities to figure out if it is a one off or a series of events and from what I have seen the system has worked in this case. If there is a cause for concern it will be acted upon.”