A MOTORIST who killed a 78-year-old pedestrian because he drove while his windscreen was iced up has walked free from court.

Former schoolmaster and charity worker Michael William Helliwell, 64, was driving the car which crushed William Byrne while travelling at just five miles per hour last Christmas morning.

Helliwell, of Lupton Court, Windermere, admitted later that he could not see out of his windscreen because the outside temperature was minus three degrees centrigrade and it was covered in ice.

At Carlisle Crown Court Helliwell pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

He was given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years, ordered to do 150 hours unpaid community work and banned from driving for four years.

Judge Paul Batty QC said there were several aspects of the case, not least the extreme weather, that made it so exceptional that an immediate prison sentence did not have to be imposed.

Prosecuting counsel Hugh Barton told the court the tragedy happened after several days of severe weather, with heavy snow and plunging temperatures.

Helliwell, who was driving to Christmas lunch with friends in Grasmere, had spent 45 minutes clearing his windscreen before he left home. But by the time he reached St Mary’s Church in Windermere the glass had iced up again and he was trying to clear it with a duster on the inside and his windscreen wipers on the outside, Mr Barton said.

As a result, he said, he failed to see Mr Byrne, who was walking in the gutter because the pavements were so icy.

Mr Byrne, of Birthwaite, Windermere, received serious injuries when he was trapped between Helliwell’s VW Polo and a stationary car. He died in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary 17 days later after developing pneumonia.

In mitigation, defence barrister Oliver Jarvis said Helliwell admitted immediately that he was responsible for Mr Byrne’s death.

Mr Jarvis said Helliwell had led an impeccable life and was of ‘quite extraordinarily good character’, working for more than 20 years as a volunteer in a day centre and for his church.

Passing sentence, Judge Batty said the testimonials presented on Helliwell’s behalf were the best he had ever seen.

Explaining why he was not sending Helliwell to jail, the judge said: “Sometimes justice can be tempered with mercy.”