The son of a hospital consultant escaped with a fine of just £500 after knocking down and killing the 10-year-old daughter of a theatre nurse.

Christopher Mitchell, 18, admitted careless driving and was also banned from the road for two years and ordered to pay £200 costs.

Laura Burroughs-Schofield was hit by Mitchell's VW Golf Tdi as she crossed the A167 at Nevilles Cross, Durham, close to her home on May 19 last year.

She died in hospital from her injuries the following day, Consett Magistrates Court heard.

The court was told that if Mitchell, of Blaidwood Drive in Durham City, had been travelling at the speed limit of 40mph he could have stopped in time to avoid hitting Laura.

But accident experts calculated he was travelling at 55mph and even after braking he hit Laura at 48mph.

While accepting the magistrates' decision, Laura's father Stephen Schofield, 44, believed Mitchell should have been charged with causing death by dangerous driving.

Speaking after the case he said: "No sentence will ever bring Laura back, we believe this sentence was a heavier one than Magistrates would normally pass.

"However, we always believed as a family this death was by dangerous driving, we believe the speed was attained in a short distance and they are aggravating features. We had discussed the charge with the CPS about their ruling but to no avail.

"It is very hard but we are trying to rebuild our lives, we owe that to Laura. It will be very difficult and the fact is Christopher Mitchell's father, Rob and myself both work together at the University Hospital in Durham where he is a consultant anaesthetist and I am a theatre nurse.

"Rob Mitchell and I were good friends, I also appreciate it has been very difficult for him because we were good friends, we will have to work through, but we are both adults.

"Laura was very, very special. She got more pleasure from giving pleasure to other people than receiving it herself, she was very active at school, she was on the school council and was a bullying buddy. She loved to be involved in the family and she loved being out with her friends playing and cycling."

Lesley Kirkup, prosecuting, told the court that forensic experts had said: "If Mr Mitchell had chosen to drive at the speed limit a collision would have been avoided. "At the worst it would have been a minor collision." She told the court that in his first police interview Mitchell had said: "I was going down the road, I saw a little girl with her bike, the next thing I knew the windscreen was out." Mitchell immediately stopped and contacted the emergency services on his mobile phone. Peter Thubron, defending, said: "It would be remiss of me if I did not tell you straight away that not only have the Schofield's lives been devastated, but the Mitchell's family lives have been devastated by this accident.

"They are a large, loving, warm, caring family."

He added that despite prosecution claims that Mitchell had never shown remorse for Laura's death in police interviews, he had not felt it was the appropriate time to express it and he was genuinely remorseful.