Grenfell Tower hero avoids ban despite driving at 116mph in Flintshire

Reporter:

Court Reporter

A hero ambulanceman who was first at the scene at the Grenfell Tower tragedy faced the loss of his career after he was caught speeding in Wales.

But a court in Flintshire took an exceptional course and decided not to ban him despite his massive speed of 116 mph.

David Hickling, 46, was suspended from the London Ambulance Service where he worked as the hazardous response team emergency manager after he was caught speeding.

His barrister, Phil Williams, told magistrates that if he was banned from driving, then his client, who had received The Queen’s Award for long service and good conduct, would lose his job.

His client had been in charge of the emergency response, the bronze commander for the ambulance service and first on the scene at the Grenfell Tower disaster and he had been involved in the Westminster Bridge bombing.

Hickling, 46, of Oakwood Close in South Benfleet, Essex, was off-duty and driving a Volvo to a terrorist-related training course when he was clocked on the A55 near Caerwys in Flintshire in July.

It was three weeks after the tower inferno when he witnesses the dead and the dying and was involved in the search and recovery of bodies with his colleagues.

Hickling, a father of one said to be going through “a messy divorce”, admitted breaking the 70mph speed limit but told Flintshire Magistrates Court a driving ban would mean the end of his career of 22 years.

Hickling, who already had six penalty points, received a further six points but magistrates accepted that to ban him would cause exceptional hardship.

Chairman Terry Eastham said it would not only lead to a loss of employment but the loss to the community of an essential emergency service person. They would therefore depart from their guidelines.

The defendant, magistrates said, was in a hugely important post within London Ambulance Service and had attended recent events of worldwide significance and interest.

“Society is grateful to such people and the personal cost involved will never be truly known,” he said.

His speed was totally unacceptable and put other road users at enormous risk and a substantial driving ban would normally follow.

But Hickling was a highly valued and talented member of the London Ambulance Service “and society should be grateful that such people exist”, he said.

The court had to balance the needs of the community and the need to keep the community safe, and to do what was fair and just in all the circumstances.

Hickling was fined £500 with £85 costs and was ordered to pay a £50 surcharge.

Prosecutor Brian Robertson said Hickling was driving a Volvo XC60 towards Rhuallt when it was caught by a prolaser device operated from a police car on the Caerwys slip road.

Traffic was light and it was a dry sunny day, he said.

Hickling told the court he had been informed that if he received a ban then “I will no longer be able to carry out my work”.

His barrister said the exceptional hardship caused by a ban would be to the public at large because of the loss of such a man.

Mr Williams said it was a truly exceptional case.

Hickling was the clinical leader for the hazardous area emergency team who was in charge and first at the scene at Grenfell Tower.

A psychotherapist report showed the exceptional stress that he was under.

He was originally served for five years in the army and toured the world as a paramedic.

Hickling had been in his present role in the London Ambulance Service for the last eight years.

He had triaged most of the casualties at Westminster Bridge and was the bronze commander at Grenfell Tower which had affected his mental health.

Hickling had been determined to remain on duty because of his great sense of responsibility towards his team and he did not want to let anyone down.

“Notwithstanding everything, the dozens of dead bodies he had seen and people dying he wanted to continue because of his public duty,” said Mr Williams.

He attended while the fire was raging and was involved in the difficult and demanding work of searching and recovering bodies.

Mr Williams said his client did not seek sympathy or make excuses but he was in a highly pressurised job which he carried out with honour.

He had shown courage and determination during his long career and had been commended by the Queen.

Such was the decency of the man that he had told his employers of his predicament and he had been suspended three days before Christmas.

He was “extremely sorry” and embarrassed for the offence and the difficulty in which he had placed himself and the ambulance service.

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