Pepe Delmonte (photo: J Mark Dodds, Creative Commons)
Pepe Delmonte (photo: J Mark Dodds, Creative Commons)

Police officer convicted of dangerous driving which left cycling musician seriously injured

A police officer has been convicted of dangerous driving following a collision in east London which has left a cyclist with serious injuries and possibly permanent brain-damage. Songwriter Pepe Belmonte was about to launch his first album, but has since had to relearn to walk and play the guitar.

Before the trial, British Transport Police officer David Lynch (31) had pleaded guilty to careless driving but denied the more serious offence of dangerous driving.

PC Lynch and a colleague, PC Gary Thomas, were responding to an emergency call and were using their siren and blue lights. At the trial, the prosecution testified that Lynch had driven over a hump-backed bridge on Queensbridge Road, Hackney, at around 68mph miles an hour, on a road with a 30mph speed limit. Evidence from an eyewitness described seeing Lynch’s police car take off, with all 4 wheels leaving the road surface (the police investigator also said that marks on the road supported this). The car then hit cyclist Joseph Delmonte, throwing him onto the bonnet of the car and then crashing into a tree. His passenger Gary Thomas also testified that he believed Lynch was driving too fast for the circumstances. The incident had prompted an Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into the case.

During the trial at Southwark Crown Court, Delmonte was described as a singer-songwriter who was about to launch his first album when he was injured. Judge Pegden said the accident had ruined the career of the artist, who was still in constant pain following the incident 17 months ago. He has needed major surgery to correct three breaks to his spine as well as facial surgery which could have affected his singing ability.

He has also been left with a brain injury that leaves him “fumbling for words” and unable to remember lyrics to his own songs.

Prosecutor Sam Brown told the court that Mr Belmonte, known to his friends as “Pepe”, had had to relearn how to walk and how to play the guitar.

A statement he read out on behalf of Mr Belmonte said: “I can’t really explain the effect it has had on my life. I am very depressed at the reality that I will never be the same person again. I miss my life as it was before.”

Lynch will be sentenced on October 8th, but has been told to expect a custodial term.

Roger Geffen, CTC's Campaigns & Policy Director, said:

"Our thoughts are very much with Pepe Delmonte and his family.

"It is at least reassuring that the Crown Prosecution Service pursued a 'dangerous' driving conviction, rather than accepting the lesser offence of 'careless' driving, as so often happens in other cases. The pressure on them to do so in the case of a police officer must have been particularly strong.

"However it is a shame that PC Lynch felt unwilling to acknowledge that driving at high speed over a hump-backed bridge on a residential street, even on an emergency call, was bound to cause danger that would be obvious to a competent driver, and that 'dangerous' driving was therefore the correct charge in this case.

"Delmonte's survival means that any custodial sentence will inevitably be relatively short - and, given that Lynch was responding to an emergency call, we have no wish to dispute this in the circumstances. However, drivers who do not recognise their responsibilities for other people's safety are a threat to society. In the interests of both justice and public protection, we therefore believe PC Lynch should face a substantial driving ban before he is let loose on the roads again."

Roger Geffen