A woman who killed a pensioner while driving and on the phone to her boyfriend has been fined £500 at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court.
The 25-year-old woman was on a legal, hands-free call to her boyfriend at the time of the accident, and did not notice that 77-year-old Brian Croxon had stumbled and fallen on the road ahead.
The court heard that while the car in front swerved to avoid the pensioner, the defendant did not and drove over him thinking he was a bag of “rubbish” lying on the side of the road in Oldham.
Other motorists stopped to render aid to the man, however, the defendant only returned to the scene briefly before driving off again. It was later found that one of her headlights was not working properly.
Kevin Donnelly, prosecuting, told the court that at the time of the accident – around 11pm on December 8, 2017, the woman had been on the phone to her boyfriend on a legal, hands-free call lasting four minutes and 20 seconds. They had argued earlier in the day and deciding whether or not to meet.
Mr Donnelly said: “One of her dipped headlights was not working on the day of the incident and there’s evidence to suggest that it had not been working for about three weeks.
“At the time of the collision, she was in a conversation with somebody although she was using a car headset which is not unlawful.”
Mr Croxon was the former president of a brass band club and visited the Oldham club six nights a week. On the night in question, he arrived there just after 9pm and left a little under two hours later.
Witnesses saw him stumble on cobbles outside the club where he fell into the path of motorist Kelly Winstanley.
Mr Donelly went on to say: “Mr Croxton had three single whiskey and lemonades but did not seem to be drunk according to a member of staff.
“Miss Winstanley describes him as standing on a cobbled surface of the road and as she approached, something caused him to stumble into the road directly in front of her.
“Miss Winstanley’s instant reaction was to swerve to the right to avoid hitting him then swerved back into her own lane and she looked in her mirror and saw him motionless.
“Although something caused him to fall in the road, he was alive and what killed him was the impact of the defendant’s Ford Fiesta.
“The prosecution’s case is that [the defendant] did not swerve to avoid hitting Brian Croxon and did not brake to come to a halt.”
CCTV footage recovered as part of the investigation showed the defendant to be travelling under the speed limit of 30mph and approximately 100m behind the Citroen driven by Miss Winstanley.
“The stopping time is somewhere in the region of 11 seconds and Mr Croxon would have been visible to the defendant for about 10 seconds for a distance of about 100 metres,” explained Mr Donnelly.
“After the Citroen Picasso went past Mr Croxon, [the defendant] had an uninterrupted view of Mr Croxon.
“She did not immediately stop. She drove on to the next junction in the road and she turned around and came back to the scene of the collision but by the time she got back, a number of people were surrounding Brian Croxon. She did not stop, she drove past the scene slowly and then she drove on.
“If [she] had acted immediately to what she saw in the road, she would have brought her car to a halt in something like 4.5 seconds and that would have carried a distance of about 30 metres.”
In a statement, the woman said she had seen a “dark object in the road and was unable to move around it”.
During the trial, she admitted that she had been speaking to her boyfriend as she “wanted company” but denied claims that she was distracted by the call.
“We had been arguing because we hadn’t seen each other much lately and we were just deciding whether to see each other,” she told the court.
“We were planning to meet, so I set off to his house in Salford. We were just talking about his day and football.”
Confirming that she had indeed argued with her boyfriend earlier in the day, she said they had not done so while she was driving and on the phone. She also denied knowing that her passenger side headlight was faulty.
The court asked if she had realised Mr Croxon was lying in the road, to which she replied: “It didn’t look like a person – I thought it was rubbish.”
“What was going through my head was that I needed to avoid it, but it didn’t feel safe to swerve. The car on the other side of the road was obstructing me from doing a full swerve.”
“At the next junction, I turned around as I needed to know. I suspected that it was a person, but I didn’t know 100 per cent. I was so scared.
“I saw people and cars all together and I was petrified. I didn’t want to get out of the car, I didn’t know what to say.
“I stopped and put my hazards on, but when I looked over, I just thought that I couldn’t get out of the car. I have never been in trouble before.”
She added: “I was scared about a million things, not just one thing. What would happen to me? What would happen to my family?”
The defendant faced charges of causing death by careless driving and failing to stop following an accident. She pleaded guilty to the charges of failing to stop, and the jury cleared her of causing death by careless driving after three hours deliberation.
Following the verdict, she turned to Mr Croxon’s family in the public gallery and said “sorry”. They ignored her and left without comment.
Judge Bernadette Baxter told the woman: “I understand this has been an extremely stressful time for you and you are genuinely remorseful for not having stopped and reported the accident.
“I hope you understand just how dangerous that behaviour was.”
Judge Baxter fined the woman £500 and endorsed her license with eight penalty points.
About Carl Millar
Carl Millar is a highly respected and experienced drink driving solicitor who is the principal of Millars Solicitors.
Carl has been a specialist in road traffic law for many years and represents clients from all walks of life and all over the Country. He is well known for the dogged defending of his clients and robust cross examination of police officers and exert witnesses.
With a wealth of expertise in motoring law Carl is well placed to provide advice over the phone and deal with all road traffic matters in a calm and professional way.
Getting in contact with Carl and Millars Solicitors is really easy. You can call him FREE on 0800 999 5535 or in an emergency you can call on 07732 054827.