US Air Force servicewoman 'was on duty' in crash which killed Norfolk biker Matthew Day
Lawyers for a US servicewoman have argued that she was still on duty as she drove home from a military base and allegedly killed a motorcyclist.
Father-of-one Matthew Day, 33, died of his injuries after a red Honda Accord car collided with the Yamaha motorbike he was riding in the village of Southery, near Downham Market, Norfolk, on August 26.
Airman first class Mikayla Hayes, 24, who is based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, has been charged with causing Mr Day’s death by careless driving.
Deputy senior district judge Tan Ikram is considering the issue of jurisdiction in the case, amid arguments over whether she should be dealt with by a UK court or US military court.
The US Air Force (USAF) has served the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with a certificate under the 1952 Visiting Forces Act, which asserts jurisdiction.
It is understood that, if granted, Hayes – who is on bail – could face a US military court.
Prosecutor Rachel Scott described it as a “very significant concession for any sovereign state to make to surrender jurisdiction”.
Ms Scott argued that it is “contrary to common sense to suggest that she (Hayes) was on duty at the time of the accident”.
The prosecutor told Westminster Magistrates’ Court the collision occurred after the defendant had finished for the day and while she was driving home.
She said the servicewoman, sat in the dock wearing a black suit and grey shirt, was not on duty at the time, was not completing a work-related task and was “entirely in control of her time”.
Rejecting this suggestion, Andrew Cogan told the court his client had been in a military PT (physical training) uniform at the time and was still on duty and under orders as she travelled home.
He said her housing, despite the tenancy being in her and her husband’s name and being off the base, is “part and parcel” of the base.
He said: “She is required to live at a place other than RAF Lakenheath and travelling daily to her place of work is, in my submission, clearly indicative of it being a duty activity.”
Being dismissed from work that day “necessarily imports the fact that she was on duty”, he said, and therefore under orders to go home.
He acknowledged that it is not correct to say she is on duty at all times – giving the example of being on annual leave – but insisted she was on duty at the time of the crash.
Members of both the defendant’s and the deceased’s families were at court on Friday.
Judge Ikram said he will give a written ruling at 11am on 23 November.
Mr Cogan said Hayes’ situation was different from the case of US citizen Anne Sacoolas as the latter was not a serving member of the American military and so would not fall under the Visiting Forces Act.
Sacoolas was driving her Volvo on the wrong side of the road when she crashed into and killed 19-year-old motorcyclist Harry Dunn near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019.
Last month, the 45-year-old, appearing from the US via video-link in a case brought by the CPS, pleaded guilty to causing Mr Dunn’s death by careless driving.
Sentencing is due to be passed at the Old Bailey in the week of November 28 and she has been urged to return to Britain to face justice in person.
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