PC Sarah De Meulemeester, a 26-year-old Greater Manchester Police officer, has been found guilty of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigated a collision that took place in Stockport on December 26, 2020.
The event left 15-year-old Khia Whitehead with life-changing injuries.
De Meulemeester, who was based at Cheadle Heath police station, was responding to an emergency call regarding a domestic incident involving a man with a knife.
The officer possessed only a ‘basic’ driving permit, which allowed her to operate marked police vehicles, but not with the use of ‘blue lights.’ Additionally, she was not granted the statutory exemptions afforded to police drivers who have completed advanced driver training.
Her vehicle was one of three driving in convoy, having left the police station at the same time to attend the incident. When information about the knife came through on the radio, another officer who was trained and authorised to drive above the speed limit overtook and switched on their emergency lights.
Speed data from the police car showed PC De Meulemeester initially slowed down slightly to allow her colleague to overtake but then increased her speed again. While following the other vehicle, she reached speeds of more than twice the legal limit.
Initially, De Meulemeester claimed to have been travelling at a “normal road speed,” but the IOPC investigation revealed otherwise.
By reviewing CCTV footage, body-worn video from the officers, and police radio transmissions, as well as obtaining witness statements and interviewing the drivers of the police vehicles, the IOPC was able to piece together the events leading up to the collision.
The evidence showed that De Meulemeester’s vehicle was one of three driving in convoy, with her police car reaching speeds exceeding the legal limit.
As she drove down Garners Lane, she overtook a civilian’s car on the wrong side of a traffic island and struck young Khia as he crossed the road.
IOPC Regional Director Catherine Bates expressed her sympathy for Khia and his family, stating that the incident significantly affected their lives.
Bates emphasized that while De Meulemeester was responding to an emergency, it does not excuse the actions that led to a life-altering event for an innocent teenager.
Two officers, including De Meulemeester, now face gross misconduct charges in relation to their driving prior to the collision.
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