A 25-year-old Manchester woman who was driving while on the phone to her boyfriend when she hit a 77-year-old man who was lying in the road, killing him, has been fined £500 at Minshull Street Crown Court.
The woman was speaking to her boyfriend legally using a hands-free kit, however, she did not notice that pensioner Brian Croxon had fallen on the road ahead of her.
While the car in front of her swerved to avoid the fallen pedestrian, the woman drove over the victim thinking he was a bag of “rubbish” on the side of the street in Oldham, according to her arresting officers.
The court heard that other motorists stop to tend to the man, while the defendant returned to the scene briefly before driving away again. Further investigation revealed that one of her headlamps was not working properly.
The accident occurred on December 8, 2017, at around 11pm. The defendant was on a legal, hands-free phone call to her boyfriend which lasted four minutes and 20 seconds. They had been arguing earlier in the day.
Prosecuting, Kevin 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.”
The victim was a former president of a brass band club in Oldham and visited the club six nights a week. He arrived there at around 9.10 pm and left just under two hours later.
He was seen to stumble on cobbles outside the club at around 11pm, falling into the path of a Citroen driven by Kelly Winstanley.
“Mr Croxton had three single whiskey and lemonades but did not seem to be drunk according to a member of staff,” said Mr Donnelly.
“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 showed the defendant to be travelling under the 30mph speed limit around 100m behind Miss Winstanley’s Citroen.
Mr Donnelly went on to add: “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.
“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.”
While the defendant gave a “no comment” interview to police, in a separate statement she said she saw a “dark object in the road and was unable to move around it.”
At the trial, she said she had been speaking to her boyfriend as “she wanted company” and denied claims that she was distracted.
The woman told the court: “We had been arguing because we hadn’t seen each other much lately and we were just deciding whether to see each other.
“We were planning to meet, so I set off to his house in Salford. We were just talking about his day and football.”
While she admitted that they had argued, she said they had not argued while she was driving and on the phone. She also denied knowing that her passenger side headlight was not working.
When the court asked if she realised Mr Croxon was lying in the road, she said: “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?”
Charged with causing death by careless driving and failing to stop after an accident, after three hours deliberation the jury returned their verdict, clearing her of causing death by careless driving. The woman had pleaded guilty to failing to stop.
The defendant turned and said “sorry” to the family of Mr Croxon who were sat in the public gallery, however 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.
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