Police officer guilty over Boxing Day collision which left teen with life-changing injuries

A police officer has been convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving in an incident which left a teenager with life-changing injuries.

PC Sarah De Meulemeester, 26, was responding to an emergency call when she struck Khia Whitehead, 15, as he crossed the road on Boxing Day, 2020.

Evidence heard during her trial showed the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officer’s vehicle reached speeds of 61mph prior to the collision on Garners Lane, Stockport, where the speed limit was 30mph.

She was found guilty on Friday following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said in a statement.

Following a mandatory referral by GMP, the police watchdog launched an investigation into the driving of three officers who were responding to a report of a domestic incident involving a man with a knife.

De Meulemeester, who was based at Cheadle Heath police station, and the two others left in convoy to attend the incident.

As a basic level police driver, PC De Meulemeester was required to observe all speed limits and was not entitled to use the statutory exemptions available to police drivers who have received advanced training.

When information about the use of a knife came through on the radio, another officer who was trained and authorised to drive above the speed limit overtook De Meulemeester’s vehicle and switched on the emergency lights.

Speed data from the car showed the defendant initially slowed down to allow her colleague to overtake – but then sped up again.

While following the other vehicle, she reached speeds of more than twice the legal limit.

She initially claimed she was driving at a “normal road speed” but declined to answer further questions in an interview about her driving.

She overtook a vehicle driven by a member of the public before going on the wrong side of a traffic island and hitting Khia.

He now requires round-the-clock care after suffering significant injuries, the court heard.

The IOPC passed a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, which authorised a charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

An investigation was also launched into the conduct of a second officer.

They and De Meulemeester were found to have a case to answer for gross misconduct in relation to their driving.

It will be for GMP to arrange disciplinary hearings in due course, the IOPC said.

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IOPC regional director, Catherine Bates, said: “This incident has had a catastrophic effect on the lives of Khia and his family and the last few years will have been incredibly difficult for them.

“That PC De Meulemeester was responding to an emergency does not excuse the dangerous actions that have irrevocably changed the life of Khia, who was simply trying to cross the road.

“Her conviction will not erase the hardship he and his family have endured, and will continue to endure, but our independent investigation has ensured the officer responsible has been held accountable for her actions.”

De Meulemeester will be sentenced at the court on 19 May.