US servicewoman Mikayla Hayes must face British court over biker death crash near RAF Lakenheath

Mikayla Hayes arriving at court for a hearing in October.
Credit: PA
Mikayla Hayes Credit: PA

A US servicewoman accused of killing a motorcyclist as she drove home from a military base can be tried in the UK, a judge has ruled.

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 26 August.

Lawyers for Airman first class Mikayla Hayes, 24, had argued that she was still on active duty as she returned home after a shift at RAF Lakenheath, and should therefore face a US military court.

Deputy senior district judge Tan Ikram, sitting at Westminster Magistrates' Court, ruled on Wednesday that the case should be heard by a British court.

He said: “The contents of the US Air Force certificate is rebutted. This court must now move on to the next stage of proceedings.”

Hayes elected to be tried by a jury at crown court and entered a not guilty plea to causing death by careless driving following the ruling.

Matthew Day was killed in the crash in Southery in Norfolk. Credit: Family photo

The legal arguments centred upon whether the case should be dealt with by a UK court or US military court.

Outlining his decision, the judge said: “There is no additional payment for the journey home. There is no evidence the fuel for her journey was paid for by the US Air Force. She paid for the fuel herself.

“While I note that her accommodation was paid for by the US Air Force, I do not find that a factor as to whether she was on duty. She was simply travelling home after a day at work.

“The prosecution has persuaded me that this falls within the bounds of a normal case.

“When you consider all the circumstances, the particular journey and the collision after did not arise out of or in the course of duty.”

Mikayla Hayes appearing at an earlier court hearing Credit: PA

The US Air Force (USAF) had served the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with a certificate under the 1952 Visiting Forces Act, which asserts jurisdiction.

At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Rachel Scott said the collision occurred after the defendant had finished for the day and while she was driving home.

She said the servicewoman 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.

Hayes will next appear at Norwich Crown Court on 21 December.

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