Case Study

Lorry driver who crashed into Kings Heath schoolgirl admits dangerous driving - receives 1-year driving ban (07/11/11)

13 year old Hope Fennell died after she was hit by lorry driver, Darren Foster (38), on Kings Heath High Street in November 2011.

Hope was crossing the road on her bike when she was hit and trapped under the lorry’s wheels.

She was declared dead at the scene despite efforts from passers-by to save her life.

Foster was charged with dangerous driving in July last year.

He denied the charge as well as a charge of perverting the course of justice which related to text messages he deleted from his phone which had been sent while he was driving.

On Thursday February 7th he pleaded guilty to both charges and will be sentenced on April 2nd at Birmingham Crown Court.

Last summer Hope’s mum Nazan launched a campaign to improve safety measures at the spot where her daughter’s life was lost.

Speaking at the time she said: ““I believe I have lost my child because safety was not taken as seriously as it should be.

“I think that all HGVs should be fitted with sensors to detect pedestrians in a blind spot, and the council should ban lorries from the High Street at peak times.”

An e-petition on the Birmingham City Council website calling for more stringent safety measures on Kings Heath High Street attracted 682 signatures.

  • UPDATE

The HGV driver, Darren Foster, has made an application to vacate his plea. He claims he was bullied into pleading guilty to the charges by his defence team.

The next date given for a hearing is September 6th.

  • UPDATE (09/09/13)

Darren Foster was encouraged not to change his plea as he would face trial by jury if he did so. He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and perverting the course of justice, he received immediate custodial sentences of 2 months and 4 months for these offences, which he is to serve consecutively. The first three months will be in custody and the remaining three months served on licence. He received a 15-20% reduction to his sentence due to the guilty plea

Foster was disqualified from driving for one year (starting from Feb 7th when he was given an interim disqualification) and must complete an extended driving test before he can resume driving.

The dangerous driving charge was for driving whilst texting, he sent 16 messages over a 20 minute period ending minutes before the collision. Judge Andrew G Menary QC said that texting was a gross, avoidable distraction and that it was good fortune that there had been no problems earlier.

The charge of perverting the course of justice was for deleting the texts after the collision, before the police arrived, and denying that he had done so. The Judge said that deleting messages and deceit was very serious indeed.

The Judge stated that Foster was not to blame for Hope’s death as he could not see her. Foster had stopped at the crossing and had moved on slowly when the light turned green.

During the hearing great emphasis was placed on Foster’s mental health – he has suffered post traumatic stress disorder, depression, has had suicidal thoughts and has been on medication.

CTC's view: 

The sentence handed down to Darren Foster was at the lower level of dangerous driving – the minimum sentence for this offence is a 1-year driving ban and a compulsory extended re-test. The maximum sentence for dangerous driving is 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine and an unlimited driving ban. CTC believes Foster should have been given a much longer ban and should be banned from driving HGVs altogether.

Foster’s driving ban dates from the original hearing in February 2013, which means he could be driving HGVs again in a very short time.

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