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Ten-year-old boy goes to court to see tragedy crash driver sentenced
A TEN-year-old boy who ‘wanted to see the man who killed his dad’ was granted special consent to witness the harrowing court case in which a pensioner admitted his guilt.
Lewi Sharp listened for more than two hours as 53 pages of his mother’s distressing diary – which told how she had suffered terrible nightmares and flashbacks since husband Garry Sharp’s death in a crash on the A684 – were read to Kendal magistrates.
The boy, the youngest of three children, was given permission to attend the hearing after a plea from his mother.
The diary also documented how Angela Sharp, of Flookburgh, had taken Lewi several times to the scene of the fatal accident, where they found remnants of 48-year-old Mr Sharp’s sunglasses and jacket.
Mrs Sharp has hit out at what she sees as the leniency of the sentence handed down to 80-year-old John Wigfield Elvin, who was given a community order of 200 hours’ unpaid work and a two-year driving ban after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving .
He crashed into the father-of-three’s motor-bike on the wrong side of the road at Garsdale Head, near Sedbergh.
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“He only has to serve community service in a charity shop,” said Mrs Sharp. “The sentence was insufficient for the value of a life.”
Explaining her decision to let Lewi sit in the court hearing, she told the Gazette: “Lewi and I didn’t want any unanswered questions – we’ve dealt with it all together and he’s been mature about it all. He has had to grow up fast and his life has been devastated.”
The court was told that on October 24 last year Mr Sharp met his friend Andrew Bell on the A590 at 11.30am before setting off for Sedbergh on his yellow BMW motorbike.
Lisa Hine, prosecuting, said Mr Sharp, who used his bike to travel to work and was wearing a high visibility jacket, was riding at no more than 40mph 70 feet in front of Mr Bell in ‘effectively dry’ conditions.
She said that in a split second Mr Bell could see Elvin, of Godwin Close, Bourne, Lincoln-shire, who was travelling with his wife to Milnthorpe, was about to come onto their side of the road.
The gap became narrower and narrower before Mr Bell saw a ‘wobble’ of the car and then heard the impact of the bike and Elvin’s car throwing Mr Sharp over his handlebars.
Despite attempts to resuscitate Mr Sharp, an HGV driver for Milnthorpe-based Canute, he died at the scene at 2.07pm.
Richard Clews, for Elvin, said in mitigation that the former regional manager and distribution manager for Trebor confectioners, whose son has a cottage in Sedbergh, was an ‘experienced driver’ and the accident was caused by a ‘momentary lapse’.
“John Elvin is not a cold-hearted person; he is the same as you and I. He has thought about little else since it happened and it has troubled him deeply,” he said.
Mrs Sharp, of Jutland Avenue, told the Gazette she was ‘keen’ for the court to hear the ‘real human impact of the incident’ in her victim statement.
She said: “Garry’s death is something that has changed our lives forever and we will never forget him. I only hope our story brings it home to other drivers the importance of taking more care on the roads. I would hate for anyone else to go through what we have.”
It also revealed her unhappiness with the charge of ‘death by careless driving’.
And after the hearing, she spoke out about the ‘leniency‘ of the sentence and the charge.
“I really wanted him to be charged with dangerous driving because it would have been more for a life. The sentence doesn’t send out a message which will make others think twice about their actions.”
The National Cycling Charity’s Road Justice campaign is calling for tougher sentences and a tougher response to bad driving.
Campaign co-ordinator Rhia Weston said: “We believe it should be ‘dangerous’ if danger has been caused to someone – too many incidents are classed as careless. We want longer driving bans of five to ten years as well as education.”
Martin Hill, regional head of magistrates prosecutions for the CPS, said: “John Elvin was charged with death by careless driving after careful consider-ation.
“The evidence was reviewed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and CPS guidance on charging offences arising from driving incidents.”
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said a review of driving offences and penalties would be carried out by the Department of Transport and the Ministry of Justice in the coming months.
Elvin was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work in the community. This would have been 300 hours but Mr Benning said he was ‘obliged’ to give Elvin credit for his early guilty plea.
Elvin was disqualified from driving for two years and will have to reapply for his licence and pass an extended retest when this period is over. He was also ordered to pay £85 court costs and a £60 victim surcharge.
THE sentence of John Wigfield Elvin has been criticised by the widow of Garry Sharp after he was charged and pleaded guilty to death by careless driving.
Crown Prosecution Service guidelines say driving offences involving death fall into two main categories: * death by careless or inconsiderate driving * death by dangerous driving Death by careless driving relates to driving which has fallen ‘below’ the minimum acceptable standard of a competent driver – death by dangerous driving relates to that which has fallen ‘far below’ this level.
Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving carries a minimum disqualification of one year and a sentence of up to five years in prison. But it can also be broken down into three sections relating to the nature of the offence.
Elvin was in the lower of the three brackets where a community order was the highest sentence.
There is also a death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs charge which can lead to 14 years imprisonment.
Similarly, causing death by dangerous driving, which can include racing, ignoring traffic lights or overtaking, can lead to a maximum 14 years.