Policeman on 999 call who ran over man ‘thought he was driving to terror attack’

A constable who knocked down a pedestrian while responding to a 999 call in a marked police car believed he was being called to the scene of a terror attack.

Sussex Police officer Russell Kyle crashed into 59-year-old Gary Paterson who had been crossing the road as he drove the Ford Mondeo through a red light the wrong way along Brighton seafront on September 19, 2017 in order to avoid queuing traffic.

He was initially charged with dangerous driving and due to stand trial on Monday but instead appeared at Hove Crown Court to plead guilty to careless driving.

The crash occurred just streets away from another incident less than a month earlier when 79-year-old David Ormesher, from Poole, died after being hit by a different police car which was also responding to a 999 call.

He is thought to have been crossing the road at the time.

Mr Paterson, who had used a pedestrian crossing on Kings Road after playing blackjack and drinking beer at a casino, was hit at around 25mph shortly after 6pm, leaving him with three broken ribs and cuts on his face.

But he made a full recovery after spending a night in hospital.

Dressed in a grey suit, light blue shirt and spotted tie, Kyle told the court he heard the latest update on the unfolding violent incident he was attending "minutes" before the collision occurred.

Officers had been called to reports of a man wielding weapons including an axe, hammer and hatchet in two streets in different areas of the city and heard someone had been hit by a car as members of the public fled the scene.

Kyle told the court the incident was unfolding just months after the London Bridge attacks and officers were still on "high alert".

The 31-year-old, who has been a police officer for five years, said he considered this was a "marauding" attack, adding: "I very much had in my mind that it could have been a terrorist incident happening across the city."

The court heard Kyle believed he was one of the first response units heading towards the danger as others fled and firearms officers were not yet on the scene.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Paterson said he heard the sirens, saw the car coming towards him and became "like a rabbit in the headlights" as he tried to jump out of the way.

Witnesses described the incident as though Mr Paterson and the car were locked in a "dance" as both tried to avoid each other.

Julie Whitby, prosecuting, told the court the road was full of pedestrians and Kyle failed to react, adding: "Even if responding to an emergency there should have been that awareness.

"Here it appears no avoiding action was taken and not stopping at that light – it’s the failure to be fully aware of the individual."

But Mark Aldred, defending, said Kyle was responding to a "genuine and credible threat to life" in which the circumstances were "spookily close" to the terror attacks months earlier.

Kyle found himself moving towards danger while others were running away and was "clearly driving" in a way he would not normally have, he said.

Describing him as someone who had made considerable "personal sacrifice" because of his "background" growing up in Northern Ireland, he said colleagues thought of him as "extremely conscientious", committed and hard working.

Kyle made a "difficult assessment in difficult circumstances" and emergency services often find themselves in an "impossible position", he added.

Handing Kyle a 12-month conditional discharge and ordering him to pay a court surcharge, Judge Andrew Goymer said he had "made the wrong call" and an "unfortunate error" when responding to an incident which had "all the hallmarks of a marauding attack."

He added it was "very fortunate" no-one was killed or serious injured. Kyle was charged after the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigated.

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