Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Car crash officer was 'powerless'

Sgt Craig Bannister
Sgt Craig Bannister denies driving at an inappropriate speed

A traffic officer was powerless to avoid a 122mph crash in heavy rain, a court has been told.

Sgt Craig Bannister, 30, is accused of dangerous driving by speeding in a police car on the M4 near Neath in "appalling weather conditions".

Defending barrister Chris Rees said because the car was aquaplaning, even motor racing champion Lewis Hamilton could not have controlled it.

Sgt Bannister denies the charge. The trial at Cardiff Crown Court continues.

Mr Rees told the jury: "It wouldn't have mattered if it was you, Sgt Bannister or Lewis Hamilton driving, once you aquaplane you're at God's mercy.

"Once the water rises over the tyres' tread depth, there is no traction.

"In that rain he would aquaplaned at 65mph. Any driver who finds himself with water covering all four wheels is in deep trouble."

Cardiff Crown Court heard that the traffic officer was not answering an emergency call when he hit standing water on the motorway.

Sgt Bannister, of Briton Ferry, near Swansea, drove at speeds of up to 122mph until the marked police car skidded off the road landing in a copse of trees.

'Model pupil'

Other drivers saw him walk away with only minor injuries.

Accident investigator Pc Matthew Curtis told the court Sgt Bannister hit the water at 115mph and lost control.

Prosecutor Michael Hammett earlier told the court: "Conditions were appalling - there was heavy rain, lots of spray and standing water on the carriageway."

Sgt Bannister is a grade two qualified police driver with South Wales Police and had been trained to the second highest level of traffic officers.

The court heard he was a "model pupil" on his police driving course and was described as "a very intelligent man who set himself high standards".

He denies dangerous driving claiming his speed was not inappropriate for the conditions.

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