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Tragic schoolgirl given 'no warning' Officer drove at 94mph, court is told.

Byline: Hugh Macknight

AROAD traffic policeman accelerated to 94mph seconds before he hit and killed a 16-year-old Hayley Adamson, a court heard.

Northumbria Police traffic officer PC John Dougal was driving at more than three times the speed limit immediately before his high-powered Volvo patrol car hit the schoolgirl, killing her instantly, Newcastle Crown Court was told.

The 41-year-old, who denies causing death by dangerous driving, had not activated his blue lights or siren before the accident on Denton Road in Newcastle.

The Sacred Heart High School pupil's family wept as a jury of four men and eight women watched CCTV footage of the moment Hayley died at 11pm on May 19 last year.

PC Dougal was attempting to catch a Renault Megane car which had activated his patrol car's automatic number plate recognition system when Hayley, of Cedar Road, Fenham, Newcastle, stepped into the road.

PC Dougal hit the brakes and swerved, but was unable to avoid hitting the schoolgirl, catapulting her into the air with catastrophic force.

Prosecutor Andrew Dallas told the court said his driving was a "grossly disproportionate" response to the situation and had caused Hayley's death.

Mr Dallas said PC Dougal had started his shift at 10pm that night and patrolled in his marked Volvo estate patrol car through Whickham and Swalwell in Gateshead before heading through Newcastle City Centre and onto the Armstrong Road leading into Newcastle's West End.

It was a dark night, but the roads were quiet, dry and well lit as he drove towards Denton Road, intending to head south over the River Tyne crossing by the Scotswood Bridge.

Mr Dallas said as he drove towards the junction leading to the bridge, his ANPR (automatic number plate recognition system) signalled a car which had passed on the opposite side of the road was on the Northumbria Police VIS database as potentially being linked to a crime.

Using a layby, he immediately did a U-turn and accelerated to catch up with the Renault Megane.

Mr Dallas said witnesses reported seeing Hayley standing at the side of the road with two other young people, who were arguing. She stepped in front of PC Dougal's car, hesitated momentarily, then attempted to run out of the way before she was hit.

Mr Dallas said the Volvo had accelerated from less than 30mph to more than 90mph in 600 yards.

He said: "It is possible to see that by the time the defendant is going into the right hand bend, within seconds of the collision he is travelling at around 94mph; more than three times the speed limit. He continues to drive at around 90mph as Hayley steps into the road.

"She appears to hesitate momentarily before trying to run across the road to clear the path of the oncoming police car.

"Unfortunately the defendant, who also in the agony of that moment is braking and steering to the right to swerve clear of her is unable to avoid a collision.

"Hayley was struck a heavy blow. She was projected into the windscreen which shattered, then was propelled up towards the area towards the mouth of Dorset Road." Accident investigators said the patrol car was going at between 68 and 72mph when it hit her. The patrol car tyres' skid marks were 88.68 metres long.

Mr Dallas said the Volvo had its dipped headlights on, but that PC Dougal had "elected not use his siren, flashing blue lights, or flashing full beam headlights - all available to him at the touch of a button." He said: "The defendant was driving at over three times the speed limit; an extreme speed in any vehicle.

"The emergency services are entitled to exceed speed limits without committing an offence if observance of the speed limits would be likely to hinder them in the task of which they are about.

"This has no bearing as to whether a competent and careful driver would elect to drive at more than 90mph on a 30mph road. This was in any view dangerous driving, whether undertaken by a civilian, a police officer or anybody else.

"But to do so without using any warning device severely compounds the danger he represented and the dangerousness of the driving." The Renault Megane was being driven back from the supermarket by a Czech man with his partner and sister, at a speed close to the safe limit and not in any way which warranted PC Dougal's "grossly disproportionate" response, Mr Dallas said.

The information on the Northumbria Police VIS system which triggered the ANPR system was out of date, the court heard.

PC Dougal, wearing a dark jacket and tie, spoke only to answer his name during the hearing.

The trial, which is expected to end next week, continues today..This was dangerous driving, whether undertaken by a civilian, a police officer or anybody else

CAPTION(S):

IN COURT PC John Dougal arrives at Newcastle Quayside Crown Court yesterday for the first day of the trial where he is facing charges linked to the death of 16-year-old student Hayley Adamson, above, who was killed after a marked police car crashed into her as she was crossing Denton Road, Newcastle below.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Words:863
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