December 10 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
A school coach driver who drove on to a level crossing as a train was approaching has walked free from court after a judge decided not to send him straight to prison.
Peter Fairhead, who had 10 children on his coach, initially stopped just before the Ingate Street level crossing in Beccles but had then driven forward as the orange warning lights started flashing and the alarm sounded, Ipswich Crown Court heard.
As the coach was moving forward the barrier descended and when the coach stopped on the crossing the barrier came down on to the roof, Richard Stevens, prosecuting, said. “As the defendant moved forwards again the barrier scraped along the roof,” he said.
The driver of the oncoming train, which was travelling at 15mph, saw what was happening and no collision occurred.
An investigation into the incident found the warning lights and the alarm were working properly. “There appears to be no obvious reason for the defendant to have undertaken the manoeuvre. He is an experienced coach driver and has been driving buses in the area for some years,” Mr Stevens said.
He said when Fairhead was questioned about the incident he said he had stopped on the level crossing because cars in front of him had stopped for no apparent reason.
Fairhead, 65, of Lloyds Avenue, Kessingland admitted dangerous driving on December 12 last year. He was given a six month prison sentence suspended for nine months and banned from driving for 12 months.
Recorder Patricia Lynch QC said the offence crossed the custody threshold but she accepted that what had happened was a “terrible aberration”.
She said Fairhead had no previous convictions and had worked hard all his life. “The court has to take into account all the good work you have done,” she said.
She told Fairhead the consequences of his driving could have been horrific. “You have gone through all these horrors in your mind and your guilt about what could have happened has taken its toll and you have shown genuine remorse,” said the judge.
She said Fairhead no longer drove coaches and she had read a number of references from people who spoke highly of him.