Case Study

Motorist admits causing death of grandfather

Incident date: 
Sun, 26 Aug 2012

A woman’s ‘momentary lapse of concentration’ cost a ‘happy-go-lucky’ grandfather his life by knocking him from his motorbike, a court heard this week.

Stephen Whitehead was thrown from his bike when Janet Childs’ car ‘suddenly’ pulled out from a traffic jam as he was overtaking stationary cars, North Somerset Courthouse was told on Tuesday.

Childs, aged 64, has admitted causing death by careless driving in relation to the incident on the A371 Locking Moor Road last August.

Magistrates heard how the crash occurred as Childs attempted to turn around to avoid queuing traffic. As she tried to turn back towards Locking she hit Mr Whitehead, who was overtaking at about 20mph.

Eyewitness accounts said the accident ended up with the 56-year-old under her Volkswagen Polo.

Paramedics treated Mr Whitehead at the scene and he was later airlifted to hospital.

Gareth Giddings, prosecuting, said: “She was in a very slow moving line of traffic. She went to perform a U-turn and she didn’t keep a proper look out behind her in her mirrors or pay good regard to what was around her.

“He suffered a severe neck injury and unfortunately he passed away in hospital some 24 days later.”

Carl May-Smith, defending, said: “Mrs Childs has held a driving licence for 36 years. She is a regular driver and, at one point in her career, drove for a living, including Transit vans.

  • UPDATE (21/05/13)
    A district judge has admitted handing a woman a curfew for killing a motorcyclist may be seen as ‘inadequate’ by some, as the biker’s widow left court in tears.

Stephen Whitehead’s family wept as District Judge Lynne Matthews also banned 64-year-old Janet Childs from driving for 12 months.

Judge Matthews said depriving Childs’ of her liberty and jailing her will not bring Mr Whitehead back.

She continued: “The sentences that are handed out for this kind of offence recognise that it was a ‘momentary lapse in concentration’.

“But the consequence of your momentary inattention was that a man lost his life and the family lost someone very dear to them. But I can’t correct that.

“It’s often thought sentences for this type of offence are inadequate but there has to be recognition that you did not intend any harm to Mr Whitehead. Nor were you dangerous in the manner of your driving.

“It was a moment which may have had no consequence at all but unfortunately on this day the consequence was devastating.

She said her thoughts were with Mr Whitehead’s family after handing Childs a six-month community order, a curfew and a 12-month driving ban.

Childs, of Wolvershill Road, will be required to stay at her home address from 11pm-7am, a shorter time span than normal, so she can visit her mother who has a terminal illness.

She was also ordered to pay £85 costs and £60 victim surcharge.

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