In 1948 a speeding driver who careered off the road killing a ten year old girl was jailed after being found not guilty of manslaughter and instead convicted of dangerous driving.
On 14th March that year Patrick Hart, an eighteen year old timber yard worker who lived in Beaconsfield Road, Woolton, was driving his Jaguar sports car down Ullet Road at a fast speed. When a dog ran out in front of him near the corner with Alexandra Drive Hart broke sharply and skidded onto the pavement, careering into a group of children who were playing.
One of the children, ten year old Margaret Smythe was taken to hospital where she died from her injuries.
When police officers measured the skid marks they were almost sixty feet in length and Hart was arrested and charged with manslaughter, appearing in court on 21st June. One witness said he estimated Hart to have seen driving at sixty miles an hour, while another said he was overtaken by him and that he was driving 'as fast as an express train.'
Hart's defence counsel Basil Nield claimed that he was driving at a maximum of 25 miles an hour and had only acted the way he did as he wanted to save the dog. In giving his own evidence Hart said that when he braked the a rear tyre burst and he had no idea what happened after that, while another road user said he did not think the speed was unusual just before the dog ran out.
At the end of the trial which entered a second day, Hart was cleared of manslaughter but found guilty of dangerous driving. The prosecution chose not to proceed with four other charges of causing grievous bodily harm by wanton or furious driving. Justice Byrne sentenced him to three months imprisonment, telling Hart 'You were driving at a most outrageous speed.'