Greater Manchester Police officer guilty of causing serious injury by dangerous driving following Stockport collision

Published: 21 Apr 2023

A Greater Manchester Police officer has been convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into a collision in Stockport that left a teenage boy with life-changing injuries.

Police Constable Sarah De Meulemeester was driving the police vehicle that struck Khia Whitehead, who was 15 at the time of the incident on 26 December 2020, while responding to an emergency call.

The 26-year-old, who was based at Cheadle Heath police station, was found guilty following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court, which concluded today (21 April).

Following a mandatory referral from GMP, we independently investigated the manner of driving by three GMP officers, who were responding to a report of a domestic incident involving a man with a knife.

We reviewed CCTV footage of the journey, body-worn video from the officers, and police radio transmissions. We also obtained statements from witnesses and interviewed the drivers of the police vehicles.

Evidence gathered during the investigation showed PC De Meulemeester’s vehicle reached speeds of 61mph prior to the collision on Garners Lane, where the speed limit was 30mph. 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 had advanced 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.

She initially told investigators she had been travelling at a “normal road speed” and declined to answer further questions in interview about the manner of her driving and her rationale for it.

While on Garners Lane, PC De Meulemeester overtook a member of the public’s car and in doing so went on the wrong side of a traffic island and struck Khia as he was crossing the road.

On conclusion of the investigation in September 2021, we passed a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, who authorised a charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

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.”

We found PC De Meulemeester and another officer, whose conduct was also under investigation, to have a case to answer for gross misconduct in relation to their driving prior to the collision. It will be for GMP to arrange disciplinary hearings in due course.

  • Greater Manchester Police
  • Road traffic incidents