A police officer was today cleared of causing the death by careless driving of a 19-year-old student who died after being hit by a patrol car.
PC Rodney Craig Mills, 42, was driving at nearly twice the speed limit without his lights or sirens when he was in collision with Jamie Haslett, who ran across the road in front of the car.
PC Mills, of Owlthorpe Rise, Mosborough, Sheffield, said he was responding to a call he had classed as an emergency in the early hours of the morning and did not expect anyone to run out in front of him.
A jury at Bradford Crown Court took four hours to find the officer not guilty of one count of causing death by dangerous driving.
The week-long trial heard that Mr Haslett, who was three times over the drink-drive limit, was returning to his student accommodation in Sheffield at around 3.45am on October 27 following a night out.
At the junction of Broad Lane and Mappin Street, the Sheffield Hallam University student began to run across the road to get to the other side.
The court heard that “experienced” South Yorkshire Police officer PC Mills and his colleague Pc Liam Stewart were returning to a police station to get equipment before responding to a call.
The call had been classed as “priority”, meaning it needed to be responded to within one hour, but PC Mills told the court he classed the call as an emergency and needed to get there “urgently”.
He said he had considered the potential risks of travelling to the scene at speed.
But he said the car’s flashing lights could blind other drivers and using the sirens in the early hours was not always necessary and could lead to complaints.
The jury was told that one second and 26 metres before the collision, PC Mills was travelling at 58mph in a 30mph zone.
The officer did not see Mr Haslett until less than a second before the impact and said he had not expected anyone to run out in front of him “very fast”.
In a statement, read to the court, PC Mills told officers how the incident happened.
“PC Stewart started to move forward, then shouted ‘Craig!’.
“Almost immediately I saw a figure appearing from right to left. The figure appeared to be running at a diagonal line in the sprinting position.
“I immediately applied the brake but collided with him.”
Mr Haslett died at the scene from head injuries after being forced on to the bonnet of the car, hitting the windscreen and being thrown “a considerable distance” into the air.
PC Mills stopped and went to Mr Haslett, who was from the Isle of Man, after the collision but there was nothing he could do.
Judge Colin Burn praised the family of Mr Haslett for the “tremendous dignity” they had shown throughout the trial.
Speaking after the verdict, Inspector Philip Shaw, of South Yorkshire Police, who was in court to support PC Mills, said: “It’s obviously a relief that the trial is over but it’s not a day for celebration.
“A young man lost his life and our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
He added: “It was a tragic accident.”
When asked how PC Mills felt at the not guilty verdict, Insp Shaw replied: “I should imagine relief that he can put it behind him and start to rebuild his career and his life.”