Sheffield police officer ‘raised concerns about handling of patrol cars’ before Christmas Day crash which left two dead

A police officer raised concerns about the handling of South Yorkshire Police’s patrol cars just days before he ‘lost control’ of one in a horror Christmas Day crash, which left two dead.

Wednesday, 8th May 2019, 12:14 pm

PC Dave Fields, aged 45, wrote an email to a sergeant at South Yorkshire Police's Operational Support Unit on December 14, 2017 – just 11 days before he was involved in a double fatal crash on Christmas Day.

In the email, the officer said he had concerns about the handling of the car and reported its rear end was 'stepping out', affecting its ability to turn corners in the email, Sheffield Coroner's Court heard.

PC Dave Fields.

Lorraine Stephenson, aged 61, also died following the crash on the A57 near Mosborough Bypass on December 25, 2017.

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Mrs Stephenson was a front seat passenger in a Citroen car, which the rear end of PC Fields’ BMW patrol car collided with.

Questioning Supt Simon Wanless, head of South Yorkshire Police's Operational Support Unit, senior coroner Christopher Dorries said: "Is it correct that on December 14, 2017 Mr Fields himself wrote a memo to a sergeant within the OSU?"

Supt Wanless said: "Yes."

Lorraine Stephenson.

The coroner added: "Amongst other things, that was about the particular type of car he was driving, which happened to be a BMW.

"He refers to an incident he had been involved in on that day when he had been involved in a pursuit."

Mr Dorries said the email reported that the pursuit took place in heavy rain and sleet, which had started to settle.

He added: "He refers to the rear end kept stepping out and the ability to turn corners was affected by the road conditions."

The jury of eight women and a man have previously heard the marked BMW patrol car, driven by PC Fields on Christmas Day, was travelling ‘quite rapidly’ responding to a 999 call reporting a street brawl involving up to 15 people on blue lights just before the collision.

The inquest heard the data recorder in PC Fields’ car logged it as travelling at 103mph just before he lost control and that the car’s speedometer was frozen at 74mph at the time of the collision.

Speaking on Tuesday, collision investigator Robert Crispin said: “The BMW, for whatever reason, rotated, losing control and rotated so the rear was now leading and the rear of the car hit Mr and Mrs Stephenson’s car on the front near side.”

Jurors also heard South Yorkshire Police guidance on road policing, which Jim Rowbottom, acting on behalf of the Stephenson family, said that officers should follow a decision-making model to continuously review any potential risk of harm to the public when responding to incidents

Mr Rowbottom said the guidance stated: "No emergency is so urgent as to justify a collision. It's far better to arrive late than not at all."

The inquest also heard that the tyre inflater at the operational support unit failed a calibration test in February 2018, just two months after the crash.

Supt Wanless said the test showed the device was under inflating tyres and was replaced.

When asked by Coroner Christopher Dorries if there was a chance it was faulty when PC Fields may have used it, he said it was a 'possibility'.

The inquest continues.