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Yorkshire farmer not guilty of careless driving on rail crossing

Posted on 22nd June, 2018

A Yorkshire farmer was dramatically found not guilty of driving his combine carelessly on a high speed rail crossing.  The proceedings before Doncaster Magistrates were brought following a near miss incident on the East Coast mainline when David Atkinson aged 55 of Moss, Doncaster on 5 August 2017 drove his Case Axial Flow Combine over Moss Gate East Coast mainline crossing.  As Mr Atkinson was half way over the line, the barrier came down on his combination and the Police, using precisely recorded timings of the light sequence, brought the prosecution on the assumption that the warning lights must have been flashing when the combine and header entered the crossing.

The case was defended on the basis that the crossing, at this and some other similar crossings in the Doncaster area, are not designed for large agricultural combinations.  The Court accepted Mr Atkinson’s evidence that when he reached the crown of the crossing he had to move over to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass. This involved him coming almost to a stop and by the time he set off again the lights and gates activation sequence had commenced. The Court took note of the CCTV photographs which showed the blurred presence of oncoming vehicle and Mr Atkinson’s combine having shifted right over to the inside to allow it to pass.  The Court heard that Mr Atkinson had been driving agricultural machinery all his life, was of excellent character and never had any penalty points.

In evidence Mr Atkinson said “The problem is, the police don’t understand quite how big these combines are and how carefully they have to be driven over the uneven surface of a rail crossing.  These vehicles run on tracking and come to a standstill if this is displaced.  I explained to the police at the outset there was no way those lights were flashing when I entered the crossing.  They tried to fob me off with a fixed penalty but why should I pay it? I didn’t do anything wrong and the Court agreed.  I fought this case for all farmers and I would like to thank the NUF for their support.  I know a lot of other farmers with similar machinery have been watching this case closely.”

Speaking after the case Mr Atkinson’s solicitor, Simon Catterall, partner at Jacksons Law Firm said “This acquittal has significance for farmers all over the country. The barriers coming down on this combine could have resulted in a very serious accident and we hope the authorities will now recalibrate these crossings so they can accommodate large agricultural machinery.”

If you would like to speak to Simon Catterall about issues similar to this matter, please email scatterall@jacksons-law.com or call 01642 356509.

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