‘Prepare for custody’, judge tells man, 73, who caused fatal collision

Oliver Thompson appeared before Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Oliver Thompson appeared before Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A 73-year-old man has admitted causing the death of a great-grandmother by careless driving.

Jean Harrison

Jean Harrison - Credit: Archant

Richard Williams was to stand trial for causing death by dangerous driving at Ipswich Crown Court on Monday – but the jury was discharged when he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.

Williams, of Bury Road, Hitcham, near Hadleigh, was behind the wheel of a Range Rover which collided with a Vauxhall Astra on the B1115, near Great Finborough, at about 2.35pm on January 26, 2016.

A passenger in the Astra, Jeanette Harrison, 77, of Clay Hills, Pebmarsh, Essex, died following the collision.

The court heard how Williams was travelling northbound when he began to overtake a Nissan Juke and a school minibus just beyond the brow of a hill on a left hand turn – colliding with the car being driven in the other direction by Mrs Harrison’s husband.

The scene of the crash in Great Finborough. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The scene of the crash in Great Finborough. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

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Prosecutor David Wilson said there was no evidence Williams was driving with excess alcohol in his system, or that he was using a phone at the time of the crash.

The court was shown footage of the approach from either side of the collision site – situated within a national speed limit zone.

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The Harrisons’ car travelled at about 40mph, while data showed the Range Rover accelerated from 36mph to 45mph before the impact. Meanwhile, the steering wheel had been turned about 16 degrees to the right, indicating the angle of a controlled steer.

Mr Wilson told the court: “Mr Harrison had next to no reaction time to the vehicle that presented itself on his side of the road.”

Judge Martyn Levett conceded that the possible punishment would be “wholly constrained” by Sentencing Council guidelines and the Coroners and Justice Act.

He said there was significant difference in sentencing guidance and ancillary orders between dangerous and careless driving.

“The sentence I pass is not to be equated with the value of a life, whatsoever,” he added, before telling Williams: “This case is so serious that a custodial sentence is almost inevitable, so come prepared for that.”

Defence counsel Richard Wood will offer mitigation for Williams at his sentencing on Tuesday. He said Williams had children and lived with his wife. Williams had initially claimed a deer caused him to swerve, but Mr Wood said he had always accepted he drove carelessly and blamed no one but himself.

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