'We can't forgive hit-and-run driver'

A DEVASTATED family have said they cannot forgive a hit-and-run driver who left a 61-year-old grandmother to die in the road.

Craig Robinson

A DEVASTATED family said last night they could not forgive a hit-and-run driver who left a 61-year-old grandmother to die in the road.

Relatives of Susan Garnham, who was killed in the crash in Ipswich on March 23, said the nine-month jail term handed to learner driver Kyler Jackson was not enough.

Ipswich Crown Court heard how the 18-year-old fled the scene of the accident in Stoke Park Drive on Easter Sunday and lied to cover his tracks.

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Despite only holding a provisional licence, Jackson, of Blake Road, Ipswich, drove to work without a supervising driver and without L plates in icy conditions. It was on his way to work that the crash happened.

In a statement, Mrs Garnham's family branded the teenager a “cowardly and deceitful man” and criticised the leniency of his punishment.

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“The sentence does not change the fact that the actions of Kyler Jackson have left our family devastated at the death of our mum, Susan Garnham,” they said. “Our family, friends and the community we live in, are still in total shock that Kyler Jackson stopped, saw our mum dying, then drove off and proceeded to cover his tracks. We feel that Kyler Jackson is a cowardly and deceitful man and continue to find it difficult to forgive him for his inhumane actions.

“We would like to think that our mum's brutal death does not end up as another statistic and that people will take note that everything they do has a consequence to others.

“We would have wished that this sentence reflected the severity of the actions taken and would be seen to be a deterrent to those who feel they can act with no forethought for others within the community. Unfortunately, due to current legislation, this is not the case.

“We would like to thank our friends and the community for their support since Easter Sunday and that they remember our mum as the truly wonderful person she was, someone who gave so much and touched so many lives and expected nothing in return. We will all miss her dearly.”

During yesterday's sentencing Ipswich Crown Court heard that Jackson believed driving tests were “unimportant” and admitted it was not the first time he had driven alone.

Godfried Duah, prosecuting, said that at about 8.25am Jackson drove towards the Belstead Brook Hotel where he was employed as a fitness instructor.

At the same time Mrs Garnham, a wife, mother and grandmother, who had celebrated her Ruby wedding just two weeks earlier and worked at Stoke High School, was walking home after buying her Sunday newspaper.

Mr Duah said Jackson, who was driving at 35mph in a 30mph limit, lost control of his Fiat car.

“The vehicle span through 180 degrees across the road. He then mounted the pavement. The vehicle collided with the deceased person,” he said.

Jackson got in his car and went to telephone for an ambulance while another passing motorist stopped to help Mrs Garnham but the defendant lied and said he had seen a black VW golf hit someone.

Mr Duah said Jackson then went to work, later watched football with friends, socialised at a nightclub and three days later went on holiday with his girlfriend to Center Parcs in Thetford.

He said that pieces from a broken car light found at the scene were eventually matched to the Fiat that Jackson jointly owned with his brother and he was arrested at the holiday site.

Jackson pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, careless driving, failing to stop after an accident, failing to report an accident, having no insurance and to driving unsupervised on a provisional licence without L plates.

Roger Thomson, mitigating, said his client was “extremely remorseful” and that the days between the accident and being arrested were “a living nightmare” for the defendant.

He said Jackson swerved his car to avoid a cat and lost control due to his lack of experience as a driver.

Judge Peter Thompson said: “Parliament has recently changed the law about causing death by careless driving but it has not come into force yet, so you are not being sentenced under that provision. If you were the maximum is seven years in prison.

“I'm sure you understand custody is inevitable but the question for me is how long because however long it is, it will never satisfy the Garnham family.”

Jackson was jailed for a total of nine months and disqualified from driving for three years.

He was also told he would have to complete an extended driving test after the ban had ended.

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