A JUDGE has criticised the way police handled a case in which two teenage girls from Chorley died.
Jordan Clayton, aged 20, was cleared by a jury of causing the deaths by dangerous driving of passengers Jade Pickering and Tia Guye, both aged 16 and from the Eaves Lane area.
The crash saw a coach plough into his Ford Focus at the notorious junction of Blackrod bypass and Station Road on September 13, 2009.
At the end of a seven-day trial at Bolton Crown Court, Judge Steven Everett said he agreed with the verdict but there were factors in the case which he was extremely unhappy with.
Clayton had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving at an earlier hearing. But a jury of nine men and three women returned a unanimous not guilty verdict on two counts of causing death by dangerous driving after nearly two hours of deliberating. Clayton was accused of ignoring no right turn signs at the junction and turning into the path of a coach.
But he told the jury that he was intending to go straight on, but was dazzled by the bright lights of the coach coming towards him and turned to avoid it.
Judge Everett said: “I will be looking at this case and the way it was handled.
“There is an element that the police decided they had a certain version of events and they would go with that, notwithstanding other evidence.
“As a result here we are two-and-a-half years later with this trial and it is most unsatisfactory.
“The police and the prosecution will be coming back to the sentence with their flak jackets.
“I will sentence on the basis of inexperience, he panicked in the agony of the moment.
“He has been demonised. Although he clearly was at fault to a limited extent, he has not behaved in any way near the way the police suggested.
“It comes down to this, two girls died, one was injured and this young man has had to live with that. There are no winners in this case, only losers.”
The judge added that the delay in the case was down to the police and CPS inadequacy.
The case has been adjourned until March 2 for sentencing.
The families of the girls were too upset to speak after the case.
Chief Inspector Rachel Buckle, of GMP's Specialist Operations Branch, said: "Our thoughts remain with the two families, who we have supported throughout this investigation and will continue to do so.
"GMP is aware of the judge's comments and as requested by him, we will be providing a report into this investigation prior to sentencing.
"As such it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time."