Speeding policeman jailed for girl's death

Press Association,Tom Wilkinson
Sunday 02 March 2014 04:42

A traffic officer who killed a schoolgirl after reaching speeds of 94mph without blue lights or a siren, was jailed for three years today.

Hayley Adamson, 16, died instantly after she was hit by Pc John Dougal's Volvo estate as she crossed a residential road in Newcastle's West End last May.

He denied causing death by dangerous driving, claiming his speed in a 30mph zone was justified as he was following a suspect car.

But he was convicted by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court last month.

Dougal was on a night shift when his patrol car's registration number recognition system alerted him to a 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, which may have affected her decision-making, but the court heard it was notoriously difficult to judge traffic speed, particularly at night.

The Megane was wrongly indicated to be suspicious and was being lawfully driven by a Czech man.

Dougal told the court during his trial he did not want to alert the Megane driver that he was being pursued by putting on his sirens or blue lights.

Dougal, a qualified advanced driver, was travelling so fast he had effectively become a passenger in his own car and had surrendered "to physics", according to a police driving instructor who gave evidence during the trial.

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

It was the night before her English GCSE exam.

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.

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

After the trial Gary Garland, the North East Commissioner for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said the tragedy "should have been totally avoidable.

"Pc John Dougal is a highly trained police driver, yet he chose to take totally unnecessary and unacceptable risks and travel at high speed on a residential road.

"He had no justification whatsoever to drive at such excessive speed.

"Being a highly trained police driver should never be used as licence to take unnecessary risks on public roads."

Glowing testimonials were produced in court today for Dougal.

John Elvidge, defending, said his life had been been "devastated by his driving over a period of time which can be measured in seconds.

"He will forever be marked by Hayley's death.

"His vocation was to be a police officer and that now is lost."

Mr Elvidge said the officer, who joined Northumbria Police in 1996, received a caution for a motoring offence when he was 16, and before he was 20, he incurred penalty points for speeding and contravening a traffic signal.

He has since resigned from the force.

Mr Elvidge said Dougal's wife, young son, and poorly father were badly affected by the case.

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