Driver who killed boy, 9, jailed for nearly five years
A SPEEDING driver who was showing off to a passenger when he crashed and killed a little boy has been jailed for nearly five years.
Richard Heeps had only passed his driving test a few weeks before his Honda Civic struck nine-year-old Michael Gibson as the youngster was crossing a road in Clacton to post some DVDs.
The Coppins Green Primary School pupil died from his injuries the following day after the crash on February 8 last year.
Heeps – who was previously convicted of driving without a license, insurance and MOT in 2006 – hit a parked van which was shoved six metres along the road and his Honda then mounted a pavement and demolished a wall.
He was arrested shortly after the crash in Wellesley Road, where Michael lived.
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Heeps, who was convicted unanimously after a trial of causing death by careless driving, appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday for sentencing.
It emerged yesterday that despite not having a licence, the Clacton man had a long list of previous driving convictions and had once been followed in his car by police in a “hot pursuit” before he then fled on foot.
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Judge Rodger Hayward Smith QC questioned the Crown as to why Heeps had not been charged with the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.
Carolyn Gardiner, prosecuting, said there had been disagreement between expert witnesses as to the speed he had been driving.
Judge Hayward Smith QC told 25-year-old Heeps he found his evidence at trial to be “wholly unbelievable”, accusing him of lying to the jury.
He said: “This is a very tragic and sad case.
“The sentence I am about to pass upon you is meant to punish and it’s also meant to deter others who drive at speed and see no danger in so doing.
“At your trial you tried to lie your way out of your predicament. You told the jury about how carefully you were watching your speed at the time so as not to drive over 30mph.
“The jury clearly did not believe you and neither did I. I found your evidence about how carefully you were keeping to the speed limit wholly unbelievable – you were lying.”
“In my judgment this was not a case of momentary inattention – you were lucky to be charged only with causing death by careless driving.
“I regard you as a danger on the roads.”
He sentenced Heeps, of Herbert Road, Clacton, to four years for the death by careless driving and nine months, to run consecutively, for withholding information to obtain insurance.
Witnesses told the trial Heeps had been speeding in the moments before the crash with prosecutors saying he had been driving between 40mph and 50mph in a 30mph area.
Michael’s parents, John and Kelly, were in court along with other members of the family to hear the sentence passed.