Community sentence for corporal in death crash near Diss

An Army corporal has received a community sentence for causing a car crash that killed two members of his family.

Richard Driver, 32, was sentenced at Norwich Crown Court yesterday after he previously admitted two charges of causing death by careless driving in the crash last year.

His 48-year-old mother-in-law Jennifer Molloy and her 22-year-old son Daniel Gemmell were rear seat passengers and died at the scene when Driver failed to give way and collided with another vehicle at a notorious junction at Garboldisham, near Diss.

Ms Molloy, who had four children and five grandchildren, lived in Thetford for a number years but had just moved to Carbrooke, near Watton, to live with her son.

Driver himself was seriously hurt while his wife Nicola, who was in the front seat, suffered 'life-changing injuries.'

She went into cardiac arrest three times by the roadside and was not initially expected to survive, the court heard.

The family in the other vehicle, Linda and Martyn Thomas and their two teenage daughters, were also injured in the crash on November 7.

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Ms Molloy's family and Mr Thomas, who underwent extensive surgery for a shattered hip, were in court to support Driver yesterday. There was also a supportive statement from Mr Gemmell's father and Ms Molloy's sister.

Michael Clare, mitigating, said: 'The police and none of the victims wanted to see him prosecuted. It's a highly unusual case. I can't remember a case where people have come forward in such abundance and with such glowing references.'

Sentencing him to 50 hours' unpaid work, recorder Maureen Baker said the humanity shown during the case was remarkable.

'I suspect that whatever sentence we impose would not compare to the sentence you have imposed on yourself. You are well-supported by people who have the utmost sympathy and understanding for you,' she said.

Driver, from Woking, in Surrey, had been taking his brother-in-law to collect his daughter in a Ford Puma when he missed a give way sign.

He failed to give way to the Vauxhall Zafira, travelling along the main road from Kenninghall towards Garboldisham, as he approached the crossroads, the court was told.

Mr Clare said Driver was unfamiliar with the area and was trying to follow directions from Mr Gemmell when he had a 'momentary lapse in concentration'.

'There's not a driver in this room who has not made a simple mistake; it's just that the consequences (in this case) were so huge,' Mr Clare said. 'He was not the first, or unfortunately the last, to not see the junction for what it was. The level of culpability could hardly be lower. Everybody involved in this case just wants to see the back of it as early as possible.'

Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said there had been 15 separate incidents at the junction between July 1992 and November 2010, including one fatal crash and eight serious-injury collisions. All had been caused by drivers failing to give way to either the right or left.

He said a woman familiar with the road had also been killed there this year and it was 'clearly a difficult junction'.

The court heard that trees had been cut back at the site, signs made bigger and road markings improved after Norfolk Police suggested changes.

Mr Clare said Mrs Driver was now 'heavily reliant' on her husband for care as a result of the devastating injuries she received.

Driver, who suffered a fractured shoulder, fractured vertebrae and a punctured lung in the crash, was also disqualified from driving for 12 months.

daisy.wallage@archant.co.uk

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