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The BBC's Peter Hunt reports
"Campaigners want a reduction soon on the number of accidents involving police cars"
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Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 19:28 GMT
TV presenter to sue after acquittal

St John's Street, Islington Sheena McDonald was knocked down on this road

A TV presenter run over by a police van is planning to sue Scotland Yard after the officer involved was cleared of driving without due care and attention.

Channel 4's Sheena McDonald spent 72 hours in a coma after the accident on 27 February last year and spent several months in hospital. But she has now made an almost complete recovery.

On Wednesday PC Glenn Whiteley, 28, was acquitted by magistrates at Horseferry Road in central London, who found that the prosecution had failed to prove his standard of driving had fallen so low as to be incompetent.

Sheena McDonald: "The roads of London are not safe"
Stipendiary magistrate Eleri Rees, said: "It was reasonable for him to proceed as he did at the moderate speed of 20mph or less and to expect that Miss McDonald would not be in danger."

She said the evidence suggested any reasonable person would be expected to have spotted the van as it came towards them with blue lights flashing and sirens blaring on full.

Miss McDonald, 45, said afterwards she was disappointed by the verdict and would launch a civil action.

Her solicitors said she would be seeking a substantial sum from the Metropolitan Police in compensation for her loss of earnings and pain and suffering caused by the accident.

PC Whiteley was responding to a 999 call when his marked police van collided with Miss McDonald in St John's Street, Islington, north London.

PC Whiteley PC Whiteley arriving at court on Wednesday
She was returning home from an awards dinner when the accident happened.

The presenter ended up underneath the van, which had to be reversed for her to receive medical attention.

The trial was told that PC Whiteley drove on the wrong side of the road after finding his path blocked by stationary traffic.

Helen McCormack, prosecuting, said PC Whiteley and his colleague in the vehicle spotted Miss McDonald, who was crossing the road but looking in the opposite direction.

One officer told the trial he thought Miss McDonald may have been inebriated but several witnesses said she had no more than two glasses of wine and was definitely not drunk.

PC Whiteley, a class one police advanced driver, told the court he was driving to the "best of his ability" on the night.

He said: "The accident happened because a pedestrian stepped out in front of the van. She stepped out, no warning at all."

The Metropolitan Police said PC Whiteley had not been suspended but had been relieved from driving duties pending the court case.

Senior officers will look at the evidence and decide if he can be allowed to drive a police vehicle, said a spokesman.

Scotland Yard said the presenter had not made an official complaint to the Police Complaints Authority or to the force, which meant PC Whiteley could not face an internal disciplinary hearing.

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See also:
19 Oct 99 |  Entertainment
Sheena back in the spotlight
13 Aug 99 |  UK
Sheena: Accident 'my worst nightmare'

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