Max Coopey, 18, (pictured) was found to have got behind the wheel of a car while disqualified from driving after he hit and killed two pedestrians while driving his parents’ Audi having smoked cannabis in August last year
The son of two police officers involved in a fatal crash while high on cannabis has today been found guilty of getting back behind the wheel just weeks later.
Max Coopey, 18, hit and killed father-of-three Jason Imi, 48, and his colleague John Shackley, 61, as they were walking back from dinner in Reading last August.
He was banned from the road following the incident, but was only convicted of drug-driving in relation to their deaths after a police collision investigator concluded that it had been an accident.
A court heard today however that Coopey was spotted by PCSO Gary Clarke driving near his parents’ home in Ascot, Berkshire just weeks after the incident and while disqualified from the road.
But Coopey and his friend, Kieran Shepherd, denied to a district judge he had not got back behind the wheel of his car.
District Judge Davinder Lachhar rejected the claims however, and found Coopey guilty of driving the vehicle. He will be sentenced later this month.
Judge Lachhar said: ‘To be perfectly honest, I don’t actually believe either of you.
‘I think you both agreed that one of you was going to say he was driver but when one looks at your evidence it is clear I cannot believe either of you.’
As he left court after being convicted, teenage Coopey approached the PCSO who had testified against him and said: ‘You know I wasn’t (driving)! You know I wasn’t!’
Coopey is the son of two police officers – Russel and Catherine – and lives with them in their £1million home in affluent Ascot, Berkshire.
He promised not to go near a car again after the tragic death of Mr Imi and Mr Shackley.
Coopey said the incident ‘really has affected my mental well-being’ when he attended Reading Magistrates’ Court with his parents in January to be sentenced for drug-driving in relation to the death.
Coopey’s father, Metropolitan Police sergeant Russel Coopey, had also spoken to the court in January and disputed the prosecutor’s claim his son was being investigated for driving while disqualified.
Jason Imi with his wife of 18 years, Sarah. She told and earlier court hearing their future together had been stolen from them
Sgt. Coopey had said: ‘He was arrested on suspicion of disqualified driving but he hasn’t been investigated further on that. We’re confident he wasn’t.
‘There is a friend who looks just like him that could have been driving the car. He has been complying well with his curfew.’
Coopey’s mother, Catherine, who was also a police officer, had told the court: ‘There is no way he could get hold of the family car now. The keys for the car are hidden.’
Officers from Thames Valley Police prosecuted Max Coopey nevertheless and the magistrates court in Reading heard today how PCSO Clarke had been absolutely certain Coopey was behind the wheel.
Before Coopey’s trial even began, he was convicted of being late to court, having failed to arrive at 9.30am in the morning, which he admitted, claiming he had been in Bournemouth the previous evening.
The officer had been driving his marked Panda patrol car through a traffic calming measure where oncoming traffic had to give way to him on the evening of October 19 last year when he saw Coopey sitting at the driving seat of a silver Renault Clio, one of the cars associated with Coopey, the district judge was told.
Coopey denied having driven while disqualified and without insurance, arguing that the car, which was in his mother’s name, had been at the single-lane give way point, but he claimed his friend Kieran Shepherd had been driving, while he had been in the passenger seat using his phone.
Speaking from the witness box, Coopey told the judge: ‘I was not driving. I had no interest of driving. Why would I want to drive?’
Judge Lachhar told him: ‘I am not here to answer questions. You are here to answer questions.’
The prosecution said that Coopey had flouted an interim driving disqualification which had been imposed on him from October 10 last year, to run until November 8.
An extended ban was later imposed until October 19 last year, the court heard.
Prosecuting, Shona Probert said: ‘PCSO Clarke had dealt with Mr Coopey on occasions before in the course of his duties and noticed him.
‘Mr Coopey stopped his vehicle at one of these traffic calming measures to allow the PCSO in a marked vehicle through.
‘At this point, the PCSO being aware of his driving history, knew that he was disqualified. He had information that Mr Coopey was continuing to drive while disqualified, he was actively looking for Mr Coopey.’
John Shackley, 61, was returning to a hotel in Ascot from a dinner with colleagues when he was hit by the car driven by Max Coopey
Taking to the witness stand, PCSO Clarke said he had only just left Ascot Police Station, Berkshire, and was travelling at no more than 10mph, when he noticed the Renault at approximately 7.20pm.
He said: ‘I identified the car as I approached and I was deliberately looking to see the driver. I could see the vehicle and see the number plate of the defendant’s vehicle. The person who was in the car was the defendant.’
Under questioning, PCSO Clarke added that he had seen the defendant ‘full face’ for four to five seconds as he drove by and said: ‘He tried to look down at the driver’s seat but I could still see his face.’
PCSO Clarke, who no longer works as a PCSO, said he had encountered Coopey twice before: once a stop-checking him on November 23, 2015 and once when he saw him walking past his vehicle in February 2017.
Nobody else had been in the vehicle with Coopey, PCSO Clarke said and after being asked by defence lawyer Edmund Gritt whether Mr Shepherd could have been the one driving the car, PCSO Clarke said: ‘absolutely not.’
After Mr Gritt questioned how PCSO Clarke could have recognised Coopey based on only those encounters, PCSO Clarke said that he had been shown more recent pictures of Coopey at a police briefing, images which he had kept on his desk in his work station.
PCSO Clarke added: ‘The reason, as I say, is the briefing slides I had which was a more recent image.’
Questioning the officer, Mr Gritt asked whether he could have had ‘a genuine recollection’ when looking at the image that it was the same boy he had seen years before.
PCSO Clarke replied: ‘Yes, I do not think his appearance has changed dramatically during that time.’
Taking to the witness stand, blond-haired Coopey, wearing a black jumper and suit trousers, claimed Mr Shepherd regularly drove him around for a week after he had been disqualified from driving.
Judge Lachhar said: ‘He’s effectively your driver? He would drive you wherever you wanted to go?’
Coopey replied: ‘I wouldn’t phrase it like that because he’s my friend. It is not like he is my driver, but he drives us around. If I told him to drive me to Northampton he would say no. It is not like I had power over him.’
When Mr Shepherd took the witness stand he claimed the car remained at Max’s home address and they had to ask permission from Coopey’s mother to take the vehicle, whereas Coopey claimed the car usually remained at Mr Shepherd’s address and the car was only in his mother’s name for insurance purposes.
In his evidence, Mr Shepherd claimed he had only purchased insurance on Coopey’s car for a single day because the pair were heading for Vapiano’s Italian Restaurant in Great Portland Street in London.
Coopey was unable to recall where the two had been at precise times during the evening, said they had not had any definite plans prior to encountering PCSO Clarke and the court heard they had met friends and purchased a Tesco’s meal deal.
Coopey explained: ‘It was just after I’d lost my licence, I was just used to going out, chilling out. It is very boring around Ascot. We didn’t do anything, we just chilled.
‘We smoked some cigarettes out of the window of the car, parked up, played up a few songs out of the car. Just what typical teenagers do, as opposed to annoying my mum playing music loud in the house, just go out.’
The Judge expressed frustrations with Coopey’s insistence that he could not remember the events of October 19 as they were too long ago.
Judge Lachhar said: ‘I accept it was some time ago, but there would have been an outline memory of what happened that day. It is not every day you get arrested by police and it is not every day your friend is driving and you are not. It is not an everyday event.’
In cross examination, the prosecution had suggested to Mr Shepherd that Coopey had illegally driven to his home address in South Ascot and then Mr Shepherd had taken over as the driver.
Mr Shepherd replied: ‘You’re just putting words into my mouth. I completely disagree.’
He maintained that he had taken a taxi to Coopey’s address, where the car was parked, driver them to London and then dropped it off at Coopey’s home again the following day.
Summarising Coopey’s defence case, Mr Gritt said the evidence of Mr Clarke was ‘tenuous’ and a ‘weak basis’ to convict.
Mr Gritt added: ‘Does his presumption, expectation found a false confirmation, an erroneous confirmation of the sighting of Max Coopey?’
Judge Lachhar, having heard all of the evidence, told Coopey: ‘I am satisfied that you were, beyond reasonable doubt, the driver on the day in question and I find you guilty.’
After arranging a sentencing date of October 29 for his failure to surrender for bail at the appointed time and driving while disqualified and without insurance, Judge Lachhar reviewed Coopey’s previous convictions – five convictions for seven offences between 2013-2018, including common assault, robbery and other driving matters.
The judge commented: ‘He’s got an appalling record really. The court on the next occasion will decide what sentence to impose on him. All options will be open on that occasion.’
As the court clerk handed Coopey’s defence lawyer a form for him to provide payment details to the court, Coopey, who told the court he was earning money distributing leaflets for his uncle, said the details entered should be his mother’s.
The judge told him: ‘You’re an adult now. It is your money. You have to pay your money.’