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5 October 2018, 17:44 | Updated: 5 October 2018, 17:49
A man who forced police to close the M25 in Hertfordshire for more than five hours when he refused to come down from a bridge over the country's busiest motorway has been given a suspended sentence.
Dayle Smith, 30, of Bingham Close in Hemel Hempstead, was charged with causing a public nuisance after specially trained police negotiators managed to get him back to safety on Tuesday, July 31.
Officers were called by worried members of the public who had seen Smith on the wrong side of the railings on a bridge in Shenley Lane, London Colney, just after 4pm.
To ensure the safety of motorists, the M25 had to be closed in both directions between J21a-22 clockwise and J21-23 anti-clockwis).
Thousands of drivers were stuck in their vehicles for hours during peak traffic times.
Officers worked to turn traffic around on the motorway and checked on motorists but due to the number of vehicles involved this was a slow process. Those with medical conditions were prioritised.
The motorway closure also caused congestion on surrounding routes.
Following his arrest, Dayle Smith was initially taken to hospital for an urgent full medical assessment by independent health professionals who deemed that he was not suffering with a mental health illness.
While in custody he was again assessed by mental health professionals who also deemed that he was not suffering from any mental health illness at that time. Following the two full mental health and medical assessments and advice from the CPS it was deemed appropriate for Smith to be charged with causing a public nuisance. He pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and was remanded in custody.
Today (Friday, October 5th) at St Albans Crown Court, Smith was sentenced to 12 months reduced to eight months (for time served while on remand) suspended for 15 months.
He was also made subject to a six month Drug Rehabilitation Order, must complete 30 days of rehabilitation activity and complete 140 hours of unpaid work.
Following the sentencing hearing, former St Albans Chief Inspector Stuart Cheek, said:
"This was a hugely resource intensive incident, which saw officers from various units across the county pulled away from their usual duties to bring Smith to safety, help with the motorway closure, check on motorists and turn vehicles around. We were also supported by traffic officers from Highways England to turn vehicles around but due to the sheer volume of traffic this was a painfully slow process.
The motorway closure also put additional pressure on our already busy control room where staff were receiving calls from frustrated and sometimes distressed motorists who had been stuck in their vehicles for several hours. This severely restricted our ability to respond to emergency calls from other members of the public who required the police urgently.
Unfortunately we have no choice but to close the road in situations like this as we have a duty to protect the safety of motorists and I'd like to thank all those involved for their patience on that evening.
The full cost of shutting the M25 is difficult to fully assess however the cost of the delays have been estimated by Highways England as being in excess of £1.84m.
There is also the hard to measure additional cost and inconvenience to motorists who were stuck on the M25 and the need for a significant emergency response, which meant resources had to be diverted from elsewhere.
Following his arrest Smith was given two full medicals by mental health professionals to ensure that he was fit to be charged. At the time we did receive some criticism from the public on social media that we hadn't taken his mental health into consideration but as the court heard Smith was fully assessed and was found not to suffering from a mental disorder and had capacity to weigh up options and make decisions.
Furthermore he was aware of the consequences of his action as he had caused the closure of the M1 in 2013 when he refused to come down from a bridge over the motorway. Smith was convicted of public nuisance for that offence."