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Cleared: the black motorist convicted despite white culprit caught on CCTV


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Cleared: the black motorist convicted despite white culprit caught on CCTV


By PAUL TEED and DENIS CASSIDY, Mail on Sunday Last updated at 09:59am on 5th November 2006

driving041106_228x348.jpgInnocent: Edmond Taylor, top, and the real culprit caught on CCTV



It should have been an open and shut case. But a black man has revealed how blunders by court officials meant he was convicted of a driving offence...despite police having video footage of a white offender.

Edmond Taylor, 25, fought a bizarre year-long battle to clear his name. But only when an astonished judge was finally shown the CCTV footage last week was Mr Taylor cleared on appeal.

He had been convicted of dangerous driving, the only evidence being police reports. He was banned from driving for a year and fined £430.

Mr Taylor, who works as a cash handler for Securitas, said: "I attended four hearings. If they had looked at the video once they would have realised I was not the person they wanted.

"I did miss a couple of hearings but the police officer didn't attend any. How many times did they need to see me to know that I was black and the man who broke the law was white?'

The saga began in the summer last year when a man was seen reversing a Vauxhall Corsa along the hard shoulder of the M23.

When PC Paul James of Surrey Police arrived to investigate, the man had left the car and was walking along the hard shoulder carrying a petrol can.

The officer escorted the driver back to the Corsa, where he gave his name as Edmond Taylor and produced a document to prove his identity and that he owned the car.

The officer issued a fixed penalty notice and a notice for the driver to produce his insurance and other documents at a police station.

What the officer did not know was that the car - and Mr Taylor's identity - had been stolen.

The thief, after being allowed to drive on, returned the car to where he had stolen it - outside Mr Taylor's home in South London.

The fixed penalty, of course, was never paid and the documents were never produced. Not until a summons arrived did Mr Taylor have any knowledge of the incident.

At a preliminary hearing at Redhill Magistrates Court, Mr Taylor said he had never been to the spot where the offence happened and had not been stopped by police.

PC James was not in court, despite the fact that his evidence could have cleared Mr Taylor.

A trial date was fixed but PC James did not turn up then, either. It was the same story on Mr Taylor's third appearance, when magistrates decided to try the case on the paperwork.

On his fourth appearance Mr Taylor, who has a two-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son, was convicted, fined and disqualified, though he was given notice to appeal.

Mr Taylor, who had been warned he would lose his job if found guilty, said: "When I first got the summons I thought it must be a mistake. The first hearing was in November 2005, so this has gone on for a year.

"Every time I went to court I said I had never driven there. But they consistently said it was me because of the police statement.

"Each time I asked for the policeman to be there. I even thought of contacting him myself, but I didn't know which station he was from.

"The CPS prosecutor kept saying, 'How many times are we going to give Mr Taylor the chance to lie to the court?'

"I was very angry when he said that because there was no evidence. To give the police officer his due, he apologised to me after the appeal. I asked him why he had never come to court. He said the court had told him it wasn't necessary."

Last week Judge John Crocker took just minutes to quash the conviction at Guildford Crown Court after being shown a CCTV picture of the moment of arrest - and the driver's colour. The judge ordered an immediate investigation into the blunder.

He told the court: "It is totally disgraceful. Why has this only come to light today? I want a full explanation as to how this occurred and I want it within three weeks."

A CPS spokesman said: "We are looking into exactly what happened in this case and will be supplying the judge with a report."

A Surrey Police spokesman said: "We apologise unreservedly to Mr Taylor for the upset and worry he has gone through. The officer was not in court because the nature of the offence did not require him to be."

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