Policeman convicted over schoolgirl's crash death

Press Association,Tom Wilkinson
Tuesday 18 February 2014 04:35

A traffic officer who drove his patrol car at 94mph without blue lights or sirens moments before knocking down and killing a schoolgirl was convicted today of causing death by dangerous driving.

Hayley Adamson, 16, was sent flying through the air and died instantly when she was hit by Pc John Dougal's powerful Volvo estate car on a 30mph stretch of road in a residential area of Newcastle's West End last May.

The 41-year-old officer was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving following a five-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

Dougal, a qualified advanced driver, was travelling so fast he had effectively become a passenger in his own car, and had surrendered "to physics", an expert witness told the jury.

Retired police inspector and police driving standards expert Gordon Robertson said he "could not imagine" a situation where Dougal should have accelerated to more than 90mph, without activating his blue lights or siren, as he was about to enter a built-up residential area.

Hayley, dressed in a white tracksuit, was walking with a group of friends at around 11.20pm when she stepped out into Denton Road.

The court was shown footage from Dougal's in-car video camera, including the moment the teenager was hit by the car and flung out of shot.

Dougal said he saw the girl and tried to brake and steer away from her, but could not.

He stopped immediately after and was confronted by the girl's friends.

Dougal was on night shift when his patrol car's registration number recognition system alerted him to a suspect Renault Megane which had just passed him in the opposite direction.

He turned his patrol car round, and sped up to a maximum of 94mph, slowed slightly as he crested a hill, then saw Hayley step into his path.

It was estimated that the Volvo had slowed to around 70mph when it hit the teenager.

She had been drinking alcohol that night, which may have affected her decision-making, but the court heard it was notoriously difficult to judge traffic speed, especially at night.

The Megane was wrongly indicated to be suspicious and was being lawfully driven by a Czech national, Kalaman Galambos.

Dougal said he did not want to alert the Megane driver that he was being pursued, by putting on his sirens or blue lights.

Andrew Dallas, prosecuting, had told the court: "This on any view was dangerous driving, whether undertaken by a civilian, a police officer or anyone else.

"To do so without use of warning lights severely compounds the danger he represented and the dangerousness of his driving."

Dougal was told prison was inevitable, and he was remanded in custody to be sentenced on May 1.

He did not react when the foreman announced the guilty verdict, but members of the Adamson family cried "yes".

Judge David Hodson said: "You will be remanded in custody and you must appreciate that the inevitable outcome of a conviction of an offence of this nature is an immediate sentence of custody."

He added: "I am sure everybody who has sat through this case will be acutely conscious of the grief there has been to the Adamson family.

"I think it is right the court should express the court's condolences to the family."

The jury of eight women and four men took an hour and a half to deliberate before reaching their unanimous verdict.