Soldier who killed Elmstead Market man Paul Stevens and injured three others in crash on A133 Weeley bypass jailed for four years

Conor Sansom, of Geranium Close, Clacton. Picture: ESSEX POLICE

Conor Sansom, of Geranium Close, Clacton. Picture: ESSEX POLICE - Credit: Archant

A soldier in the Welsh Guards who killed another motorist and injured three family members when he leaned into the footwell of his car to retrieve a sat nav, has been jailed for four years.

Paul Stevens, 49, from Elmstead Market, who died in A133 crash at Weeley on February 20 2016. Pictur

Paul Stevens, 49, from Elmstead Market, who died in A133 crash at Weeley on February 20 2016. Picture: STEVENS FAMILY - Credit: Archant

Conor Sansom, 21, of Geranium Close, Clacton, “instinctively” bent down to pick up the device which had fallen off, but a judge said he had “voluntarily surrendered proper control of his vehicle” for that five to seven seconds.

Judge Jonathan Seely, sitting at Chelmsford Crown Court, jailed Sansom for four years for causing the death of Paul Stevens, of Elmstead Market, by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving to Mr Steven’s 84-year-old father Brian.

• Paul Stevens’ family speak of their pain after collision

The A133 Weeley bypass. Picture: SU ANDERSON

The A133 Weeley bypass. Picture: SU ANDERSON - Credit: Su Anderson

Sansom had pleaded not guilty but was convicted after a trial. He had admitted an alternative of causing death by careless driving.

Sansom was also disqualified from driving for five years, so it would come into effect when he is on licence after he has served half his sentence. He will have to take an extended re-test before he can drive again.

The judge said it was “an avoidable distraction” and Sansom must have been looking down for five to seven seconds.

The soldier, the father of a 13-month-old daughter, who was giving his fiancee a lift to work, was behind the wheel of his Fiat 500 travelling on the A133 towards Colchester on February 20 last year at Weeley. His vehicle crossed the central white line and collided with a Vauxhall Agila.

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Its driver, Mr Stevens, died later in hospital. Also injured were his father and his daughters Samantha and Katie, who was 23 weeks pregnant.

Sentencing Sansom, Judge Seely said: “You were a young man with a responsible job, in a committed relationship and with everything in front of you.

“In bending down to retrieve that sat nav which had fallen from the windscreen you voluntarily surrendered proper control of your vehicle for a significant period of time.

“In taking that risk you changed your life and the lives of those close to you. In addition to the prison sentence you have the burden of having caused the death of an innocent person for the rest of your life.”

The judge added: “The effects are the result of your actions because if your life has changed that is greatly overshadowed by the effects of your actions on your victim’s family.

“It’s clear Paul Stevens was a wonderful man. It’s solely because of your actions that his life was cruelly cut short. The effects of that on those who loved him are incalculable.”

The judge accepted that Sansom was genuinely remorseful.

The court heard that Sansom has been diagnosed as suffering post traumatic stress disorder. It is not clear if he will have to leave the Army as he was described as being an “upstanding” soldier.

After the sentencing, the Stevens family issued a statement. It said: “This is a sad line drawn under a horrible chapter. No time would have healed or taken away the loss we feel.

“For the rest of our lives we will celebrate the privilege of the years we had to love Paul.

“Moving forward with our faith and trust in God we hope this will make people think before they drive and hope that the sentence gives time for reflection and remorse.”