Hope Fennell, Kings Heath, Birmingham, November 2011
13-year-old Hope was killed in collision with an 18-tonne loaded HGV as she pushed her bike across a pedestrian crossing on Kings Heath High Street, Birmingham.
The lorry driver, who was at the front of a queue of stationary traffic, moved the lorry away when the lights turned green. He had not seen Hope beginning to cross the road.
The driver had had an argument with his girlfriend by text message over a 20 minute period leading up to the crash. The last of 16 messages was sent just one minute before the crash. He deleted these messages immediately after the collision. Just two months after Hope’s death the driver was caught speeding in a 40mph zone.
The CPS decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the driver for causing Hope’s death. Instead, he was charged with dangerous driving and perverting the course of justice for deleting the text messages.
At the trial the judge stated that the driver was not to blame for Hope’s death as he could not see her. The driver’s good character, ‘excellent’ driving record, poor psychiatric health, and unemployment since the incident, were emphasised during the court case, yet, because Hope was not considered a victim of his driving, nothing was said about the effect her death had had on her family. The judge had to seek approval from the driver to read a victim impact statement Hope’s mother had written, but, even though the defendant gave his approval, the statement was not read out in court.
The driver changed his plea three times before finally pleading guilty to both accounts. He received a one year driving ban and two months in prison for dangerous driving and four months in prison for perverting the course of justice.
Hope’s story demonstrates the distress experienced by bereaved relatives when the death of a loved one is not reflected in the charge.
Hope’s mum, Nazan Fennell, has launched the ‘Live in Hope’ campaign for safety for vulnerable road users.