Chichester couple who lied about Bognor lorry crash are spared jail

The crash happened in Montgomery Drive in Bognor. Picture: Google Streetview
The crash happened in Montgomery Drive in Bognor. Picture: Google Streetview

A Chichester couple who lied to police about a crash in Bognor have been spared jail.

Frankie Atkinson, 29, was driving his father’s van when he collided with a parked lorry in Montgomery Drive on Christmas Eve, but his partner Samara Childs, 22, told officers it had been her, a court heard.

The reality was confirmed through CCTV footage and the couple – both of Fishbourne Road East – admitted one charge each of perverting the course of justice.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Friday that Miss Childs lied to officers because she was ‘intimidated’ by Mr Atkinson’s father.

'Look, I am being honest, I am not trying to mess you about'

Prosecutor Peter Walsh said: “At about 10.30pm Mr Atkinson drove a Mercedes Vita van into the back of that parked lorry, shunting it into the vehicle in front.

"Mr Atkinson was seen next to the driver’s side and then both defendants walked away from the vehicle.”

A police officer who had been called to the scene asked Atkinson what happened, who replied: “Look, I am being honest, I am not trying to mess you about. I lost control of the vehicle skidding on oil or something.”

Call to the police on Christmas Day

The following day – Christmas Day – Atkinson’s father called the police and ‘as a result the investigation took the course that it did’, the prosecutor said.

A few days later Childs told the police that she had been driving the van when it crashed.

John Upton, defending Childs, said: “This is an unusual perverting the course of justice because far from trying to pass the blame onto somebody else it appears that Miss Childs took the blame to protect Mr Atkinson and he then maintained that to protect her.

"Their efforts to protect each other have got them into very, very hot water.”

Judge: This is an exceptional case

Recorder Quincy Whitaker, sentencing the pair, said: “In a normal situation you would have been undoubtedly looking at a prison sentence but I take the view that this is an exceptional case.”

“I accept Miss Childs took the course she did as a result of intimidation from Mr Atkinson senior. Miss Childs was intimidated and encouraged, told to tell police that she had been driving.

“It is quite clear now the only impact could have been to make Mr Atkinson senior’s insurance position better in that if it had been a stolen vehicle his insurance would have covered it.”

The pair were made subject of a 12 month community order and ordered to attend rehabilitation days, which can be completed near their new home in Cornwall.

Finishing the hearing, the judge said: “I wish you luck in your new life and carry on with your excellent parenting of your daughter.”