An engineering apprentice has been cleared of causing his teenage girlfriend’s death by dangerous driving but will face a fresh trial next year on a death by careless driving while under the influence of alcohol charge after a jury failed to reach a verdict.
Richard Bromley’s girlfriend Claudia Williams was killed when the Vauxhall Corsa he was driving left the road on School Lane in Guilden Sutton and crashed into a tree on June 24, 2013.
A Chester Crown Court jury spent a total of seven and a half hours deliberating but could not reach a majority verdict for the death by careless driving count, leading Judge Rajeev Shetty to discharge the nine men and three woman on Wednesday (October 7) – the 11th day of proceedings.
Bromley, of Daniell Way in Great Boughton, held his head in his hands as a retrial was granted and the date fixed for May 9, 2016.
During their deliberations, jurors asked questions of Judge Shetty relating to whether it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure passengers wear seatbelts and regarding the blood sample taken from Bromley more than two hours after the collision.
Toxicologist Dr Mark Piper, appearing as a witness for the prosecution earlier in the trial, found that the level of alcohol in Bromley’s blood was ‘not less than 111m of alcohol to 100ml of blood’ – the legal limit in England and Wales is 80mg of alcohol for 100ml of blood.
Bromley claims that he drank three and a half pints of lager over a three-hour period when he and Miss Williams met her father and two sisters for dinner on the night of the tragedy, but did not feel intoxicated.
When questioned by prosecution counsel Benjamin Myers, Bromley said he would not drink less if he could turn the clock back, as ‘that had nothing to do with how the accident happened’.
Bromley claims that Miss Williams ‘shoved’ his left arm with both her hands during an argument while he was driving, which caused the car to veer left and collide with the tree.
Claudia 'not wearing a seatbelt'
Consultant pathologist Dr Brian Rogers said in a statement read out to the court that Miss Williams – who was not wearing a seatbelt – died as a result of a ‘typical sudden deceleration injury’.
He believed that the ‘massive soft tissue compartment damage’ to one of her thighs was consistent with her having turned to face the driver at the time of the impact.
Bromley told the court he only realised that she did not have her seatbelt on seconds before they crashed.
He insisted that he had his eyes on the road ‘the whole’ time and was driving around 30mph when the crash happened, having reduced acceleration and glanced at his speedometer when the speed limit dropped.
Collision investigator PC Kevin Sweeney calculated that Bromley’s car would have been travelling not less than 42mph when the collision occurred – the speed limit on School Lane is 30pmh.
But Robert McKinnon, a forensic collision investigator and the defence’s expert witness, said he believed that the speed of the car was ‘significantly below’ the critical speed of the bend immediately prior to where the collision happened, which they believed to be 60mph.
Mr McKinnon added that he did not think speed that was excessive for the bend was a factor in the collision.
Bromley and Miss Williams, who had been together for around one year and keen to move in together, had spent the early evening driving around Hoole and Vicars Cross looking for rental properties before meeting her family for a meal at the Old Trooper pub in Christleton on June 24, 2013.
But Miss Williams ‘stormed out’ after a disagreement with her sister, so the couple left early and were headed towards her grandparents’ home in Guilden Sutton when they crashed.
They had been arguing after she refused to tell Bromley why she was upset and repeatedly changed her mind about where they were staying that night.
Bromley said he ‘wished’ there was something he could have done to have avoided the collision.
“I am absolutely devastated by what has happened,” he added.
“I miss her more than anything in the world and love her from the bottom of my heart and will love her for the rest of my life.”
Bromley will remain on unconditional bail until May 9, 2016.
A family liaison officer told The Chronicle that Miss Williams’ family did not wish to comment at this stage.