Driver avoids jail over teacher death crash

A DRIVER who caused the death of a well-known former school teacher has avoided jail after a judge said his actions had been “momentary inattentiveness”.

Malcolm Barber’s Hyundai collided with 79-year-old Sheila Webb as she crossed St Cyrus Road in Colchester shortly after midday on March 28 last year and she died the following day.

Barber, a 65-year-old grandfather with an exemplary driving record of 46 years, claimed it was an accident but he was unanimously convicted of causing death by careless driving following a trial.

Barber, of The Crescent, Great Horkesley, could have been jailed but at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday he was sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid community work.

The retired builder, who has been “severely effected” by the crash, was also ordered to pay �3,500 costs and given a three-month electronic curfew from 8pm to 6am and was banned from driving for a year.

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Barber had been out shopping and decided to visit a friend and was returning home when the accident happened.

Mrs Webb, who was partially sighted and had limited mobility, was crossing the road and Barber claimed the Colchester pensioner had stepped in front of him giving him no chance to stop.

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Gayle Jarman, from Essex Probation Service, told the court Barber had expressed his remorse, saying: “I feel for her friends and family”.

Barber, who was travelling at less than 30mph when the collision happened, sold his car after the accident and took a long break from driving before getting back behind the wheel.

“This appears to have been a momentary lapse of concentration on his part, albeit with tragic consequences for the victim and her family,” Mrs Jarman added.

David Pickersgill, mitigating, said: “This was a case that was always going to be difficult for Mr Barber to plead guilty.

“I hope that Your Honour can see why he felt he had not been careless.

“It was not a clear cut case, as we have in these courts so often, where the defendant ought to have pleaded guilty. We don’t have a defendant pulling the wool over people’s eyes and then running a trial.

“He felt that his functioning as a driver was careful and within the standard.”

Judge Karen Walden-Smith, told Barber the level of his criminal culpability was low and said the consequences of his actions were “extreme”.

“No sentence can properly reflect the anguish caused by a momentary lapse of inattentiveness to the road ahead.

“The reason you did not see her was due to your momentary lack of attentiveness – you ought to have seen her.

“There really is no sentence that can properly address the damage caused. You will with the consequences for the rest of your life – that in itself is a punishment.”

Inspector Steve Brewer, of Stanway road policing unit, said the case served as a reminder to all drivers of what could happen if they don’t stay alert.

He said: “There was no evidence that Mr Barber was driving at an inappropriate speed.

“The charge against Mr Barber was brought because there was sufficient evidence to show that Mr Barber should have been able to avoid colliding with Mrs Webb if he was paying full attention to the road ahead of him.

“Mrs Webb was crossing the road from Mr Barber’s right hand side, visibility was good and it was daylight.

“Mrs Webb was struck by a car that was probably well within the 30 mph speed limit. This case underlines the importance that all drivers must be alert and ready to react when the need arises.”

Mrs Webb had previously lived in Basildon with her late husband, Leonard, who she married in 1950 and who died in 1998.

The couple moved to Colchester in 1973.

She had worked at both Hazelmere and St Helena schools in Colchester and retired as deputy head teacher at Bishop William Ward School in Great Horkesley in 1990.

Mrs Webb, who lived in the St John’s area, was a regular churchgoer and was a member of the congregation at Eld Lane Baptist Church in Colchester.

She also belonged to many classes at the Towns Women’s Guild and “led a full and active life”.

She left behind two daughters, Rebecca and Prue, and four grandchildren Luke, Philip and Sam and Josh.

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