‘People have died there due to similar driving in the past’ – sheriff blasts Edinburgh student who drove into constable

A student who drove into a police officer and dragged him along a busy Edinburgh street has been ordered to make a donation to a police charity.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 1st March 2021, 5:56 pm
Smirking Lees leaves court after dodging custody

Elliot Lees drove his Vauxhall Corsa through a packed pedestrian-only area during the capital’s International Festival when he smashed into PC Ben Merrick.

The constable was dragged along the city’s Cowgate in front of hundreds of shocked revellers before Lees “panicked” and sped off leaving him lying injured in the street.

Lees, 22, ditched his white motor in an alleyway and during a subsequent chase he attempted to kick an officer in the head while climbing over a six-foot fence.

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The fourth year actuarial science student at Heriot Watt University was late arrested at his student flat at the city’s Lochrin Terrace.

Lees pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and attempting to evade arrest when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last December.

He returned to the dock where he escaped a jail sentence but was told he must play £400 in compensation which will go towards the Scottish Police Benevolent Fund.

Lees was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work placed on a supervision order and banned from driving for the next 12 months. He must also resit his test before he is allowed back on the road.

Sheriff Adrian Cottam said: “It is clear that you now appreciate your behaviour was totally unacceptable on August 10, 2019.

“It is exceptionally fortunate that constable Merrick or anyone else was not injured as a result of your driving.

“People have died there due to similar driving in the past.”

Previously the court was shown CCTV footage of the moment Lees collided with PC Merrick at around 3.25am on August 10, 2019.

Prosecutor Calum Thomson said the area was packed with people at the time.

Mr Thomson said: “The vehicle is observed being driven by two constables who are on uniformed foot patrol. The white vehicle is seen travelling towards both constables at speed.

“There is the initial contact with the officer and secondly, the pedestrian here has to take evasive action as the vehicle travels towards him at speed.”

The footage shows Lees colliding with PC Merrick and dragging him along the road before the student speeds off towards the Grassmarket.

Lees is then seen abandoning the vehicle close to the scene and attempting to make his escape.

Officers traced Lees to his nearby home at around 5am and he admitted being the driver of the car.

The fiscal added PC Merrick suffered injuries to his arm, elbow and knee due to the collision but fortunately did not suffer any serious injury.

Lawyer Joe Boyd, defending, said his client was “shocked and appalled” at his conduct when he viewed the incident on CCTV.

Mr Boyd added Lees had expressed “remorse and regret” and any conviction will “have an impact on his future career” in the financial industry.

Lees pleaded guilty to driving dangerously, striking PC Merrick on the body with his vehicle and dragging him along the road to his injury at Cowgate, Edinburgh, on August 10, 2019.

He also admitted to running way from officers and while climbing a fence repeatedly attempting to kick PC Oakes on the head at Hunter’s Close, Edinburgh, on the same date.

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