Chief prosecutor apologises to family of Sunderland biker after decision to drop charge over his death
The North East head of the Crown Prosecution Service has apologised to the family of a Sunderland motorcyclist killed in a crash after admitting that the criminal case against a biker charged with causing his death was incorrectly dropped.
Frazer Golden, 30, of Sunderland, was fatally injured when his Honda motorbike was involved in a collision with a Yamaha bike in April 2017.
Following a police investigation it was recommended the Yahama rider was charged.
However, following a review of the case by the North East office of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), it was decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
Frazer’s family appealed the decision not to prosecute under the CPS’ Victim Right to Review Scheme (VRR). Following a review by the CPS’ Appeal Review Unit in London, it was deemed that there was a realistic prospect of conviction and the case was referred back to the North East office for charges to be brought.
The national CPS policy in place meant the North East office should have taken the case to court without any further review.
However, the North East office disagreed with the decision of the Appeal Review Unit, despite the fact that it had no authority to do so.
When the case reached Durham Crown Court in March, the regional prosecutors offered no evidence, resulting in the rider being formally acquitted of causing death by careless driving.As a result of the acquittal, he cannot be charged again in connection with the collision.
Following the decision Frazer’s family instructed lawyers Irwin Mitchell to review the case and to initiate a claim for judicial review of the CPS for acting unlawfully.
Andrew Penhale, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS North East has offered has offered 'sincere apologies' to Frazer’s family, including parents Dan, 68, and 65-year-old Linda and acknowledged that the CPS’ failure had caused the family 'considerable distress'.
In a further letter Susan Hemming, the CPS’, Director of Legal Services admitted there was 'no good reason' for the regional office to 'dis-apply' policy and the case 'should have been prosecuted and adjudicated upon by the court.'
Helen Smith, expert public law lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing Frazer’s family, said: "More than two years on from the collision Frazer’s family are still struggling to come to terms with his unexpected death. All they wanted was for the courts to examine the circumstances surrounding how he died, providing answers to their many questions.
"The decision taken by the regional office of the CPS means they will not have the opportunity to have their questions answered and this has just added to the heartbreak and pain they continue to experience. They feel a strong sense of frustration which has been compounded by the fact that the regional office of the CPS had no authority to act in the way that it did.
"While nothing can make up for what has happened we are pleased that the CPS had admitted its errors and apologised to the family.
"It is now vital that lessons are learned from this case and, where appropriate, staff receive the necessary training to prevent a repeat of such an incident.
"We will continue to support Frazer’s family at this extremely distressing time to help them come to terms with what has happened the best they can."
Frazer, a worker at Sunderland’s Nissan factory was riding on the A689 in Weardale when the collision happened.
At the time police said that the Yamaha bike was heading out of St John’s Chapel when it collided with the Honda, which had been travelling in the opposite direction.
The Honda then hit a lamppost and a drystone wall. Frazer was pronounced dead at the scene.
Dan said: “We still cannot believe that Frazer is no longer with us; it still doesn’t seem real.
"It is hard not to feel angry at what has happened and difficult not to feel that the CPS gave our family false hope.
"We still can’t understand why the regional office decided to overrule national policy, denying the courts the opportunity thoroughly examine the evidence and our family the opportunity to fully understand the reasons that led to Frazer’s death. We know nothing is going to bring him back but we owed Frazer that much.
"All we can hope for now is that the same mistakes do not happen again."
Frazer also leaves behind sisters Louise, 41, and Faye, 31.
A CPS spokesperson said: "We have apologised to the family for the way this case was managed and we accept this caused them distress, anger and upset, given the tragic circumstances.
"We are currently reviewing our Victims’ Right to Review policy and will ensure there is more clarity around actions that can be taken by a CPS Area once a decision has been made by the appeals and review unit to overturn a charging decision."