, Crime correspondent
Thursday, June 5, 2014
A motorist who delayed an ambulance on an emergency call by repeatedly overtaking it has been told his “breathtaking arrogance” could have put lives at risk.
The ambulance, with blue lights showing, was on an emergency call to a man with breathing difficulties in Cromer and was travelling along the A149 between Stalham and Wayford Bridge when it encountered a Volvo vehicle being driven by Malcolm Cooper.
Cooper, 40, of Chapel Road, Roughton, initially prevented the ambulance passing and when it did he attempted to overtake it before he “stopped dead in the road” forcing paramedics to make an emergency stop.
When the ambulance got by, Cooper “took the opportunity to follow the ambulance through other traffic”, prompting the vehicle’s driver to stop and advise Cooper he shouldn’t be doing it.
Despite the warning, Cooper’s car mounted the pavement on the nearside of the ambulance and “accelerated past”. When Cooper’s car got into traffic enabling the ambulance to pass he again attempted to follow the ambulance through the traffic before pulling off the road.
The incident, which happened on August 26 last year, lasted about five minutes and was reported to police.
Cooper appeared at Norwich Crown Court yesterday to be sentenced having previously admitted one count of dangerous driving.
Sentencing him to five months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, Recorder David Pugh said it was an “appalling episode” in which Cooper “demonstrated a disgraceful attitude not only to other road users but to the emergency services”.
He said Cooper had shown “breathtaking arrogance” in thinking his presence on the road and his journey was more important than that of the ambulance.
Recorder Pugh said Cooper’s actions “delayed the response time of this ambulance which could have put a life at risk”.
He said that had it not been for the quick reactions of the ambulance driver in carrying out an emergency stop when Cooper braked in front of them the delay could have been more serious.
Cooper was disqualified from driving for 30 months and will have to take an extended retest before he can drive again.
He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, pay £1,500 prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.
Alan Wheetman, for Cooper, said the defendant, who should be given credit for his plea, became “confused” by the driving manner of the ambulance and was “unable to pull over safely”.
He said Cooper had been confused as to where the ambulance was going and thought the crew might be about to pull in or turn around because they had taken a wrong turn.
He said Cooper did not deliberately intend to impede the ambulance and were he to find himself in a similar position in future would get out of the way.
Mr Wheetman added that Cooper was “extremely sorry” for what happened.
A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said: “We want everyone to stay safe whilst using the roads so when encountering blue lights and sirens we ask that drivers simply find a safe place, and pull-in to the left as soon as possible.”
“Drivers just need to show the consideration they would for any other road user and this incident serves as a reminder to us all.”