Police officer ‘speeding’ before fatal Sheffield crash

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A POLICE officer was driving his patrol car at nearly twice the legal speed limit, without his lights or sirens, when he hit and killed a 19-year-old student in Sheffield city centre, a court heard today.

PC Rodney Craig Mills, aged 42, was driving back to his station before responding to a non-emergency call when he struck Jamie Haslett on Broad Lane in October 2010.

Sheffield Hallam University student Jamie died at the scene from head injuries after being thrown onto the bonnet of the patrol car, hitting the windscreen, and being thrown ‘a considerable distance’ into the air.

Nicholas Barker, prosecuting, told a jury of six men and six women at Bradford Crown Court that, one second before the collision, PC Mills was travelling at 58mph in a 30mph zone.

He was answering a call classed as ‘priority’, meaning it had a response time target of an hour, and was not using his lights or sirens.

Mr Barker said PC Mills did not see Jamie, who was running across the road, until less than a second before the impact. He began to brake only half a second before the collision, the jury heard.

PC Mills, of Mosborough, Sheffield, denies causing death by careless driving.

Mr Barker told the court: “The prosecution say that, at the time Jamie Haslett was struck by the car driven by PC Mills, the defendant was driving his car carelessly.

“The prosecution say the defendant was going too fast, and there was not the need, in the circumstances, to travel at that speed - nearly twice over the speed limit.

“Even if the defendant felt it necessary to travel in a speed in excess of 30mph there was a real and pressing need to utilise the warning devices he had available to him.

“It is the prosecution case that he should have had the blue flashing lights and the sirens and flashing front lights, to alert other road users to his presence as a speeding road vehicle.

“Even if these warning lights caused a disturbance to others who may be in their beds at night, his responsibility lay first and foremost to ensure the safety of road users.”

Jamie, who had been out for the night drinking with friends, was returning to his student accommodation at around 3.45am on October 27.

At the junction of Broad Lane and Mappin Street, he began to run across the road to get to the other side.

“The car collided with Mr Haslett when he was on the near side,” Mr Barker said. “He almost got to the other side.”

The court heard ‘experienced’ PC Mills had been a South Yorkshire Police officer since 2000 and had served in the RAF for 12 years previously.

After the collision PC Mills stopped, and an ambulance arrived soon afterwards, but Jamie had suffered severe head injuries. A pathologist said he would have died instantly.

Mr Barker said police drivers were not always bound by the rules of the road - but must ‘maintain a standard of safety’.

He said: “PC Mills failed to drive with sufficient care and attention in the circumstances, speeding through a built-up area. He did not see Jamie Haslett until it was too late for him to take any avoiding action.

“At the time he began to press that brake, maybe some half a second before the impact, there was nothing he could do to avoid Jamie Haslett and that collision was unavoidable.”

PC Mills, wearing a grey suit and shirt, listened to the opening of the case with his hands clasped on his lap.

The trial continues.