A police constable was left in a coma after another officer smashed into their patrol car while responding to an emergency incident.
Ashleigh McAdams ran a red light and was T-boned by the other police vehicle that was travelling at speeds reaching 70mph responding to a 999 call. The collision left a police colleague in intensive care with a bleed on the brain and comatose for days, reports the Echo.
Another copper, who has more than two decades of service, has been unable to return to frontline policing. Liverpool Crown Court heard 31-year-old McAdams, of Tower Street, Brunswick Dock was driving a marked Peugeot 308 with PC Charlotte Waters as her passenger when their car “collided at speed” with another police car.
The incident happened just after midnight on July 11 last year. Ben Berkson, prosecuting, described how both had their emergency lights and sirens activated while rushing to separate incidents.
One car, a Kia being driven by PC Gary Carson with PC Mark Lockett as a passenger, was heading to a burglary and travelling along West Derby Road towards Liverpool city centre at speeds of around 60 to 70mph. While McAdams was driving on Green Lane, heading towards Tuebrook, at up to 81mph but slowing to 29mph before proceeding through a red light at the junction with the A5049.
Dashcam footage from PC Carson’s car showed him smash into the side of the other vehicle, which was attempting a high-speed right-hand turn, before both crashed into the central reservation. One car ultimately came to rest on top of the other, teetering almost on its side.
Mr Berkson said that guidance to police officers says red lights “should be treated in the same way as a stop or give way sign to minimise the risk to other road users”. He added: “The prosecution say that Ms McAdams failed to properly give way as she should have done and failed to properly slow the vehicle.
“She failed to observe the vehicle and drove at excess speed across that carriageway.”
Under interview with detectives, McAdams – who has no previous convictions – said her memory was “foggy” but “accepted that she drove too quickly when the collision happened”. She suffered a broken pelvis and a fractured foot during the crash, undergoing treatment at Aintree Hospital before being discharged on July 14.
While PC Carson walked away with only “minor cuts and bruises”, PC Waters suffered a collapsed lung and was placed into a coma for four days due to a bleed on the brain – spending nine days in hospital in total. The former prison officer, who joined Merseyside Police in 2020, still continues to have issues with her speech and balance and “requires assistance with normal tasks”.
A statement read out to the court on her behalf described how she had been due to move into a new house with her boyfriend at the time, having picked up the keys less than two weeks beforehand. But the first night the 22-year-old spent in her home came after she was discharged from hospital.
PC Waters added: “What should have been a happy experience was taken away from me. I don’t think it really hit me at first what happened.
“I went to work and woke up in hospital. It was like a missing jigsaw piece, everything has just halted.”
She has not returned to work since the incident. Adding: “I feel too young to have this taken away from me. My job is part of my identity.
“A massive part of my life has been taken away. I miss everything about work, I really enjoyed it.
“This was going to be me long-term career. No two days were the same, now every day is the same.
“I’m stuck in the house. My life has been turned upside down.
“It is difficult to comprehend. I was told by one doctor that only five per cent of people who suffer the injuries I suffered survive.
“Another doctor said to me, ‘welcome to your second life’. I thank my lucky stars, because this could have ended so differently.”
Mr Berkson stated that she is however “still hopeful she may return to work in the police”. PC Mark Lockett meanwhile sustained slipped discs, whiplash and injuries to his neck, shoulders, coccyx, hips and ribs.
A dad to a nine-year-old daughter and serving police officer for 25 years, PC Lockett has since been diagnosed with a form of vertigo, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the accident. In his statement, he described suffering from nightmares and “waking up in cold sweats”. He returned to the police on restricted duties in February this year but had to go off sick again after suffering from heart palpitations and a panic attack when driving into work, after which he “broke down” in his GP’s office.
PC Lockett added: “I have always carried an overwhelming sense of guilty in this. I wish I had been driving that night, it may have been different. I can’t believe it has had such a profound effect on my life.”
Richard Orme, defending, told the court that his client had also been diagnosed with PTSD, while her dad died from bowel cancer four months prior to the crash. She was said to have been on a break when other officers put out a “grade one” request for urgent assistance, and he added: “One never knows whether that is going to be a threat to life and limb.”
McAdams remains a serving officer, but is still expected to face disciplinary proceedings. She previously received a commendation for administering CPR to a murder victim in 2021 and has been recommended for another, having served on the frontline when violence erupted during protests at the Suites Hotel in Kirkby in February this year.
Mr Orme said: “She is a young lady who has dedicated herself assiduously to her self-betterment. She is someone who cares deeply about others, she could not be spoken more highly of.”
McAdams’ counsel said that any sentence of imprisonment, whether suspended or to be served immediately, would be “career ending for her”, adding: “This was a tragic, tragic set of circumstances, unfortunate in terms of the consequences and the timing of the emergency vehicle which never anticipated the presence of the other blue lights on the junction at that time. It is clear that serving the public has always been the raison d’etre for this young lady.
“She carries a huge amount of guilt. She is a woman of the utmost integrity.
“She is deeply ashamed. She apologies to the court.
“She was focussed on an officer potentially in danger. She apologies to those whose lives have been affected by a momentary loss of concentration – this is something that is unlikely to happen again.”
McAdams admitted causing serious injury by careless driving. Appearing in the dock wearing a dark grey blazer over a white blouse and lime green trousers, she was handed a 12-month community order with a rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 30 days and 180 hours of unpaid work.
Sentencing, Judge Gary Woodhall said: “The other vehicle was unable to avoid colliding with the side of your vehicle. A substantial collision occurred.
“Although you and the driver of the other vehicle were exempt from observing certain rules of the road, you remained under a duty to have regard to the safety of your driving and how that could have an impact on others. You failed to properly slow down your vehicle or give way.
“You did not see the other police vehicle travelling on that road. It seems your ability to see the approaching police car was reduced by the high speed at which that vehicle was travelling and the layout of the junction itself, with a limited view around the bend.
“PC Waters continues to suffer neurological problems. She has set out the significant and devastating physical and psychological impact, impacting on her on a daily basis.
“She requires assistance to complete mundane tasks – she is stuck at home, dependant on others and unable to return to work, something which she feels is very much part of her identity. Across all of that is the unknown of what the future holds for her.
“This was an unusual incident with unfortunate consequences for all concerned. The expert concluded that your driving was the primary cause of the collision, with some proportion of blame to the driving of the other police vehicle.
“This was not an offence committed with any malice. You clearly did not intend to harm anyone that night.
“You committed the offence when rushing to try to help officers who you thought may be in danger. It is clear that you are someone who has dedicated yourself to a better life.
“Your employment record in the police is described as exemplary. It is clear to me that you have dedicated yourself to others.
“You are described as a rule follower who is diligent and a fierce advocate for people. Police officers speak glowingly of your character and your drive to help others.
“Mr Orme has told me that a suspended sentence is likely to be career ending. Of course, that is a matter for another body.
“You know you did wrong. You are described as being heartbroken at causing the harm you have to other officers.
“This offending is unlikely to happen again. There is no sentence I can pass which will begin to equate to the real harm suffered by the officers in this case.
“The reality is, there is nothing this court can do or say that will alleviate that harm. Some will think that any sentence I impose is inadequate.
“My task is to ensure the sentence is just and proportionate and relevant to the circumstances of this sad case. I am exceptionally satisfied that I can properly draw back from a custodial sentence.”
McAdams was also banned from driving for a year. She will be required to pay £500 in court costs within three months.