US servicewoman charged over motorcyclist’s death ‘on duty at time’, court told

Mikayla Hayes is charged with causing death by careless driving (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Mikayla Hayes is charged with causing death by careless driving (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

A US servicewoman was still on duty as she drove home from work at a Suffolk military base and allegedly killed a motorcyclist, her lawyer has told a court.

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, is 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 a later date.