Coroner calls for change after 'brutal and needless' death of Wakefield man hit by a car during a police chase

A senior coroner has called for changes to be made after a jury found that a man hit by a car during a police chase was unlawfully killed.

By Rebecca Marano
Friday, 4th March 2022, 10:55 am
Andrew Kitson, was walking to his local shop on the Leeds Road in Outwood on June 9, 2020 when he was hit by a car that was attempting to escape from the police. His wife Jessica (pictured) described him as a "loving, loyal and thoughtful man".
Andrew Kitson, was walking to his local shop on the Leeds Road in Outwood on June 9, 2020 when he was hit by a car that was attempting to escape from the police. His wife Jessica (pictured) described him as a "loving, loyal and thoughtful man".

Andrew Kitson, was walking to his local shop on the Leeds Road in Outwood on June 9, 2020 when he was hit by a car that was attempting to escape from the police.

Andrew, who was a 44-year-old train driver from Lofthouse, died at the scene. He was just minutes away from his home.

Driver Adam Badkin, who had been disqualified from driving at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for six years at Leeds Crown Court in September 2020.

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A three-day inquest at Wakefield Coroner's Court concluded today (March 3, 2022) that Andrew had been unlawfully killed.

The jury heard evidence of how the police pursued 22-year-old Badkin for around two and a half miles before he crashed his Peugeot 307 car and tried to flee.

He was detained a short distance away.

The police officers stated that, as they walked back to the vehicles, they were approached by a member of the public who informed them there was an injured person on a driveway.

At the start of the inquest on Tuesday, March 1, Mr Kitson's widow Jessica had questioned whether the risk of the police pursuit was justified and if the pursuit should have been aborted when it had reached the built-up area of Leeds Road.

After several hours of deliberation, the jury found that the pursuit was justified.

The spokesman for the jury told the court: "Yes, it was appropriate for the police pursuit of the Peugeot to continue when they turned onto the Leeds A61 Road. Based on the evidence presented to us we have reached this conclusion for the following reasons.

"The police car was driven by an officer with significant experience and advanced driver skills and qualifications, and they had gained authorisation from force command.

"The police had observed numerous offences and the Peugeot had also failed to stop when instructed. This will have alerted officers to the potential of there being further offences underlining the appropriates of continuing the pursuit.

"There was good visibility and the A61 is a wide road, the police were aware that further tactical support was on its way, and they were continually assessing the risk."

Immediately following the inquest, senior coroner Kevin McLoughlin raised concerns that there is a risk of similar future deaths unless action is taken.

Mr McLoughlin sent a section 28 report raising those concerns to The Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Mr John Robins QPM, and the Regional Major for West Yorkshire, Ms Tracy Brabin.

In the letter he stated: "The evidence taken at the inquest revealed insufficient statistical evidence was available to guide an evaluation of the proportion of spontaneous police pursuits which; involve driving at high speeds through residential areas, result in the apprehension of an offender, result in personal injury to other road users or property damage, are aborted without the alleged offender being caught.

"Without such analytical feedback (ideally prepared on a national basis) the risks inherent in such pursuits, balanced against their effectiveness, cannot adequately be reviewed.

"The rules governing spontaneous police pursuits in residential areas place an onerous burden upon police drivers to review continuously the safety of proceeding whilst at the same time driving at high speed.

"The pursuit manager who authorises the continuance of a pursuit is dependant upon fragments of verbal messages relayed over the radio, due to the perceived need to leave airtime for other TPAC units to input information.

"The Inquest heard evidence to the effect that real time camera pictures from the police vehicle are not always available due to IT issues. This means the pursuit manager must largely trust the judgement of the police driver."

Mr McLoughlin added: "In order to lessen the burden upon the police driver in having to weigh numerous factors in a continuing, complex judgement, consideration should be given to a refinement of the parameters in which pursuits in residential areas are permitted.

"Such guidance to pursuit managers (informed by data regarding the effectiveness and risks arising in previous pursuits) would help to promote consistency and lessen the dependence upon a case-by-case judgement made in a pressured timescale.

"In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe your organisation has the power to take such action."

Speaking directly to the Kitson family after the jury delivered its conclusion, he praised the "calm and dignified" way they had conducted themselves.

Mr McLoughlin said: "Andrew's death was the most brutal, needless and catastrophic blow that you have been dealt.

"I feel for all of you having to come to terms with this and I imagine that holding the inquest almost two years later has churned up emotions.

"Can I pay tribute to the calm and dignified way you have handled yourselves.

"The way you have seen evidence on how events unfolded must have been heart-breaking for you to listen to.

"I hope someone else tempted to flee from the police will see the press reports and think again."

After the inquest's conclusion Jessica Kitson said: “Andrew was the most loving, loyal and thoughtful man – an exemplary husband.

"Our lives together have been so unfairly cut short.

“He should have been safe walking along a 30mph road, yet, an already convicted dangerous driver, who failed to stop for the police, took my husband away from me forever.

“I very much hope the police force remember the impact this has had on my family, and in future, carefully consider whether a pursuit warrants the risk of a dangerous driver killing another innocent person, like Andrew.”

Phil Kyte, of Thompsons Solicitors who represented Jessica Kitson, said: “On behalf of Andrew’s family and Jessica, I would like to thank the coroner and jury for taking the time to listen to all of the evidence that has been placed before them and considering it carefully before reaching their decision.

“Jess, her family and Andrew’s, are devastated at their loss.

"Although nothing can bring Andrew back, the family are grateful that the coroner has sent a report to the Mayor of West Yorkshire as well as the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police.

"We sincerely hope that they will take on board the concerns that have been raised and revisit how they conduct road pursuits to ensure that lessons are learnt and other families are spared the heartache my client has had to go through.”

An independent investigation launched by The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) found that the traffic officers pursuing Mr Badkin acted in accordance with the relevant policies and that their pursuit was appropriate.