Page last updated at 19:35 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 20:35 UK

Biker crash case judge criticised

Leslie Carr
Mr Carr said he knew his light had been green

A biker who suffered serious injuries in a crash with a fire engine has won the right to damages at a retrial, after the first judge was criticised.

Leslie Carr, 45, of Stirling Place, Hove, spent seven days in intensive care after the accident in August 2004. He failed to sue East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, who blamed him for the crash, at his first county court trial. But the Court of appeal ruled that his case should be reheard because the judge had not understood the detail.

In August 2004 Leslie Carr was hit by a fire engine responding to a 999 call at the junction of Fonthill Road and Old Shoreham Road, Hove, when he crossed a light that was either green or just turning from green to amber.

(Judge Hollis) either didn't understand the sequencing or wasn't prepared to grapple with its implications
Lady Justice Smith

Mr Carr took the service to court after he was informed that they were blaming him for the incident.

According to the rules that govern emergency service vehicles, drivers must make sure the coast is clear before they cross a red light when responding to an emergency call.

He lost the trial but that decision was overturned when he took his case to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Carr said: "I was devastated by it, I couldn't believe it because I knew my light had been green and there were independent witnesses who had seen that my light was certainly not red."

At the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Smith said the original trial judge, Judge Keith Hollis "either didn't understand the sequencing or wasn't prepared to grapple with its implications".

She told Mr Carr that he could have a second trial.

During the retrial at Brighton County Court Mr Recorder Luba described the firefighters' evidence as "unconvincing, unsatisfactory, lacking realism, unimpressive".

He said he did not believe they deliberately concocted a story but he detected a culture at work, tighter than a family, where men genuinely accepted each other's versions of events.

But Mr Carr was also told that he was 25% to blame for the accident because he was driving too fast and accelerating.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said they were unable to comment because an internal investigation was under way.

Damages are expected to be agreed upon in several months' time.


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