‘Sentence too harsh’, claims death driver

John Craven
John Craven

An elderly pensioner banned from the road for killing a motorcyclist near Bridlington claimed he was too harshly dealt with by being ordered to take an extended motoring retest after a 42-year “barely unblemished” motoring career.

John Craven, 71, pulled out without paying sufficient attention in front of innocent motorcyclist Paul Ella, 53, killing him when his Ducati smashed into his Toyota Avensis.

The accident happened at the Butterwick Crossroads on the B1253 between Sledmere and Bridlington on Friday June 6, 2014. Mr Craven was convicted of causing death by careless driving and banned for two years and given a two month curfew. Prosecutors insisted the Ducati was not speeding and Mr Craven should have edged out at the junction to improve his view.

Mr Craven, of Granville Square, Scarborough, launched an appeal at Hull Crown Court on Thursday January 7 against his sentence claiming his driving was at the lowest level of culpability and other road users did exactly the same as him.

Barrister Philip Morris, for Craven, said a report suggested the visibility of the give way markings for a driver would be up to 80m, and it was possible the motorcycle that hit Mr Morris’s rear wheel was actually out of view of the driver when the vehicle set off from the junction.

“The culpability arises out of not edging out, or not to look constantly, as he crossed the road,” said Mr Morris. “Other drivers were noted to do the same thing, not just by the defence expert, but by the prosecution expert too.”

“The view of the defence expert is: but for an extra metre of travel, this incident would not have arisen. It would equate to less than 0.2 seconds.

“There appears to be nothing that properly justifies that doubling of the mandatory 12-month period of disqualification.”

He said there was nothing in Mr Craven’s “barely unblemished” 42-year driver history that suggested he needed driver retraining and his culpability was at the lowest level.

Crown barrister Chris Dunn said Craven had to be found guilty by the court rather than admit his carelessness and his lapse had meant he pulled out of a junction when it was not safe to do so with tragic consequences for a motorcyclist who was behaving “perfectly lawfully”.

“A disqualification of two years is entirely appropriate,” said Mr Dunn. “What was possible for him to do was slow down. What he did was see the motorcyclist and speed up.

“It is a fairly fundamental decision to stop at a junction and make sure it is clear. It is arguable on the facts, the defendant’s age may have contributed. If that is, or might be the position, then the extended re-test is designed to ensure when returns to the road he is competent.”

Judge Kate Buckingham, who sat with two magistrates, reduced Craven’s driving ban to 18 months, but said the extended test should stay in place.

She said the culpability was not at the very lowest level which Mr Morris insisted. She said: “It was not a momentary lapse. It was sustained manoeuvre, crossing a junction without sufficient heed. Given the consequences of the accident a disqualification of 18 months is appropriate. She said the extended test was not a punishment by necessary to ensure the safety of other drivers when he returns to the road.

She added: “We repeat our condolences to the family of the deceased and acknowledge Mr Craven’s otherwise long and good history of driving.”