NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Dangerous driver policeman was attending firearms incident

John Kearney Image copyright Newsline
Image caption Police officer John Kearney believed he was attending a firearm incident where lives were at risk

A firearms officer drove dangerously while responding to a 999 call involving a man with a gun, a court heard.

John Kearney, 49, drove on the opposite side of a city dual carriageway during rush-hour traffic while on his way to a domestic incident in Macduff.

He attempted to explain his actions at a hearing at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Kearney previously pled guilty to driving dangerously when he appeared at the same court.

The police constable went through red lights and overtook several cars on country roads while responding to the blue-light call in the armour-plated vehicle.

He is claimed to have caused other motorists to swerve out of the way to avoid a collision with the Land Rover Discovery on 12 February last year.

Potential threat

Mr Kearney said he had considered the handgun incident to be a potential threat to human life and said he had a 46-mile journey ahead of him.

He had been contacted by the control room to advise him of reports of a man in possession of a handgun threatening another man.

He told the court that in the worst case scenario he could have been dealing with a situation as serious as the Raoul Moat or Dunblane shootings.

Mr Kearney said he had to treat the incident as a serious firearms threat and felt it was imperative he made good progress up the road from Aberdeen.

CCTV footage downloaded from a camera fitted to the rear view mirror of the vehicle was shown to the court.

The 4x4 could be seen driving down the opposite side of the carriageway on North Anderson Drive, the city ring road, to avoid heavy congestion with northbound traffic.

Camera footage showed that Mr Kearney was driving at 60mph towards oncoming traffic on the carriageway.

The police constable said: "I had to make decisions based on dynamic risk assessments and what the drivers were doing in front of me."

When the officer, who was employed in the armed response unit at the time, got to the bottom of the hill, he then drove round the wrong side of the Haudagain roundabout.

He said: "From my perspective, it looked like there was congestion which would have prevented passage.

"Heavy traffic can be taxing but you have to have your wits about you."

Certain exemptions

Mr Kearney was also recorded overtaking cars while crossing solid white lines further on in the journey on country roads.

But he explained to the court that he had a good view of the road. The court heard that there was snow at the side of the road which was damp but not wet.

The firearms officers were eventually stood down from the job and redirected to another incident involving a man threatening children with a knife in Elgin.

Defence lawyer Callum Anderson asked: "Was there any complaint made by any member if the public as far as you were aware?"

He replied: "No."

Police Scotland sergeant Christopher Kerr also gave evidence and told the court he had trained the constable on emergency response driving.

The former head of driver training said there were certain exemptions for police officers so long as they could justify their actions and their driving was safe.

He explained that police officers should either stop or give way at red lights and could drive on the opposite carriageway at safe speeds.

He said some of the overtaking manoeuvres could have compromised the safety of the driver and oncoming motorists.

The hearing continues later this month.

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