Family plea spares driver jail

A MAN involved in a hit and run which led to the death of a pensioner has walked free from court after the victim's family asked the judge to have mercy on him.

A MAN involved in a hit and run which led to the death of a pensioner has walked free from court after the victim's family asked the judge to have mercy on him.

Joan Barker, 82, was crossing the road when she was knocked down by a Citroen Saxo being driven by 26-year-old Daniel Kent of Ruaton Drive, Clacton.

The widow was rushed to Colchester General Hospital but died the following day from her injuries.

Yesterday, Colchester Magistrates Court heard how Kent had panicked after the collision and fled in his car after the accident in Carnarvon Road, Clacton, on February 18.

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Christian Miekle, prosecuting, said Mrs Barker stepped out from between two parked cars at about 1pm.

Witnesses said the driver appeared to be travelling at about 40 to 60mph in an area with a 30mph speed limit.

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Mr Miekle said Kent handed himself into police later that evening after discussing what had happened with his family.

At an earlier hearing he had pleaded guilty to careless driving, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, and failing to report the accident.

Kent was warned he faced jail but in a dramatic twist District Judge David Cooper gave a suspended the prison sentence of three months.

He said his decision was based an appeal from Mrs Barker's niece, Margaret Robinson.

In a letter, read to the court by District Judge Cooper, she said: "He has acknowledged that he was wrong and I feel that the further emphasis of a prison sentence would do no good and could indeed inflict permanent damage on this young man's future character.

"It seems to me that a suspended sentence or a community service order would be more appropriate in this instance.

"My aunt was a religious lady all her life and I am sure that had she survived the accident she would have found forgiveness in her heart."

Sentencing Kent, Judge Cooper said: "I am amazed and heartened by such a spirit of forgiveness.

"You realise this old lady's family have saved you – nothing else did. I will impose a suspended sentence, I hope you won't forget her family to your dying day."

He sentenced Kent to three months, suspended for a year, for failing to stop at the scene of a road traffic accident, three months for failing to report an accident, which will run concurrently.

He also fined him £500 for careless driving and to pay costs of £80.

Afterwards, a clearly emotional Kent shook hands and spoke briefly to thank Mrs Barker's family.

He said he had found the whole experience "shocking" and said he hoped one day to be able to put it behind him.

His dad, Vernon, said: "We had expected him to go down, it was only the fact the family put the letter in and his good character that saved him – we are very relieved."

After the case, friends of Mrs Barker said the widow was full of energy and enthusiasm for life.

Anne Paulizky said: "She was a lovely person, always wanting to do something for somebody and thought the best of people and we all do miss her so much."

Mrs Barker was an orphan and had been left on a doorstep as a baby and did not know her parents.

Mrs Paulizky said she got to know the pensioner through the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints in Thorpe Le Soken.

"We would often bring her to church and take her home and visit her during the week, she lived alone but was a very independent lady.

"Lots of people knew her because she had worked as a mother's help doing domestic work so she had seen a lot of children grow into adulthood," she said.

Mrs Barker, who did not have any children, was a member of Age Concern in Carnarvon Road, Clacton, and had just eaten her lunch there on the day of the accident.

She lived in St Clement's Court in sheltered accommodation in the town.

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