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Van driver who denied causing death of police officer by careless driving changes plea

Graham Ellison

A van driver who had previously denied his careless driving caused the death of an off-duty police officer in a South Cumbria road crash tragedy has changed his plea to guilty.

Oliver Evans, a 27-year-old Cumbria police constable, died following a two-vehicle collision that occurred on the afternoon of September 16, 2019, on the A683 at Middleton.

This involved his Triumph motorcycle and a Peugeot Bipper Royal Mail delivery van.

The driver of that van, 59-year-old Graham Ellison, appeared at Carlisle Crown Court this morning.

During a hearing in front of Judge Nicholas Barker, Ellison pleaded guilty to driving the vehicle without due care and attention, thereby causing the death of Mr Evans. He had previously denied the charge and was due to stand trial in July.

The court heard a collision expert had concluded Mr Evans would, as he rode around a corner, have had “only one-and-a-half to two seconds” to respond to a situation which “entirely was the making” of van driver Ellison.

Mr Evans’ reaction, Judge Barker concluded, had been “within the bounds of what was reasonable in the circumstances that were presented to him”.

The case was adjourned after the judge directed that a probation officer should speak to Ellison about the tragic events and his personal circumstances, in order to prepare a pre-sentence report.

“The court will, of course, take into account your guilty plea, and will afford the appropriate credit (discount) for doing so, and that will be reflected in the sentence that is passed,” Judge Barker told him.

Ellison, of Back Lane, Warton, near Carnforth, was granted unconditional bail and is due to be sentenced at the crown court on June 23, when the judge will also hear impact statements from Mr Evans’ relatives.

Speaking after the tragedy, his family spoke of being “heartbroken” and described him as a “caring, loving and loyal individual who was a true delight to be around”.

Latterly a police constable, Mr Evans had initially served as a special constable with Lancashire Constabulary before joining Cumbria police, becoming a mobile support group officer and joining the operational support unit in 2017. He qualified as an advanced driver and undertook training to become an authorised firearms officer.

Cumbria’s Chief Constable, Michelle Skeer, had said: “Oli was a dedicated, professional officer who was well-liked by his colleagues.”