Friday, April 10, 2009

Britain: Irresponsible killer cop headed for jail

With a token sentence probably

A police officer who knocked down and killed a schoolgirl as he drove at 94mph in a 30mph zone with no blue lights or siren faces jail after he was convicted yesterday of causing death by dangerous driving.

Hayley Adamson, 16, who was about to sit her GCSE exams, was sent flying through the air and died instantly after she was struck by PC John Dougal’s Volvo patrol car.

The collision happened at night in a built-up residential area of Newcastle upon Tyne while the 41-year-old traffic officer was pursuing a suspect vehicle.

Hayley was crossing a main road with friends in May when the police car came over the crest of a hill and sped towards her. Dougal braked but was still travelling at 70mph when his car hit her.

A qualified advanced driver, he was travelling so fast that he effectively “surrendered to physics” and became a passenger in his own vehicle, according to an expert witness.

Gordon Robertson, a police driving standards expert, said that he could not imagine a situation that would justify Dougal accelerating to more than 90mph in a built-up area without activating his blue lights or siren.

During a five-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court, the jury was shown footage from Dougal’s in-car video camera, including the moment that Hayley was hit by the car and flung out of shot. The experienced Northumbria Police officer said that he saw the girl and tried in vain to brake and steer away from her. He stopped immediately after the collision and was confronted by the girl’s friends.

Hayley had been due to sit her first GCSE exam, in English, the day after her death and was hoping to study childcare at college. Ten days earlier the teenager had been a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding.

It emerged during the trial that before starting his night shift Dougal had spent more than two hours working as an electrician to boost his police salary. He denied being tired when he started the 10pm-7am shift.

The officer was driving in the West End of Newcastle when his registration number recognition system alerted him to a suspect Renault Mégane he had just passed. Dougal turned his car around and accelerated to 94mph to pursue the Mégane. It was later established that the vehicle was not suspicious and was being driven lawfully. The officer said that he had not put on his warning lights because he did not want to alert the driver of the Mégane about his pursuit.

Hayley had been drinking alcohol that night, which may have affected her decision-making, but the court was told that it was notoriously difficult for a pedestrian to judge traffic speed at night.

The jury took 90 minutes to return a unanimous verdict, after which Dougal was told by Judge David Hodson that a prison sentence was inevitable. He was remanded in custody for sentencing on May 1.

Dougal told the court during his trial that he thought about Hayley every day and was devastated by what had happened, but believed that his driving had been safe. [What would it take to convince him that it was unsafe??]

He was charged with causing death by dangerous driving after an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. An IPCC spokesman said: “Being a highly trained police driver should never be used as licence to take unnecessary risks on public roads.”

The IPCC said that, on average, 40 people died in England and Wales each year in road traffic accidents involving the police.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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