Courts offer driver charity option

A Norfolk bus driver was yesterday offered a bizarre cut-price penalty deal by a German court hearing the circumstances of a tragic autobahn crash that claimed the lives of three people.

A Norfolk bus driver was yesterday offered a bizarre cut-price penalty deal by a German court hearing the circumstances of a tragic autobahn crash that claimed the lives of three people.

The court was hearing the case of a German lorry driver who crashed into a parked coach carrying a party of schoolchildren to a ski-ing trip in Austria earlier this year, causing the death of a 14-year-old pupil.

But German prosecutors also heard how a second bus carrying 36 children and staff from the private Norwich School ploughed into the wreckage south of Cologne killing Norwich School secretary Jane Irving, 53, and off-duty coach driver Ron Lees, 69, from Gorleston.

The driver of the Norfolk bus, Brian Marjoram, was yesterday told by the court that he could be jailed or fined six times his annual salary - or pay £700 to the Quidenham Children's Hospice in return for there being no further action against him.

Whilst German lorry driver Frank Schade, 33, was convicted of causing death through negligence and given a two-year suspended prison sentence at a court in Kerpen, near Cologne, Mr Marjoram - a driver with Ambassador Travel, based in Great Yarmouth - was offered the option of donating to charity.

Mr Marjoram, who is in his 50s, had faced an eight-month wait to discover whether he would face charges. Yesterday, the German prosecutor said the court believed Mr Marjoram could have avoided the accident and as such was liable to penalty.

Most Read

Normally, the prosecutor told the court, he would be fined, but in this case a letter would be sent to Mr Marjoram offering him the deal to pay £700 to the hospice.

Mr Marjoram has declined to talk about the day's developments, but his managing director Mark Green said while an approach regarding the donation had been made to Mr Marjoram, nothing had been confirmed in writing whether that was indeed the case.

Mr Green added: “We are as much in the dark as the next person as to how a man has faced no interview, no charges and yet is fined. We need to hear more and Mr Marjoram is in contact with his police liaison officer about this.”

Meanwhile, the lorry driver who caused a crash which left three people dead walked free from court saying he would “give his life” to undo the tragedy.

Schade's conviction followed an horrific pile-up involving his vehicle and two coaches carrying East Anglian schoolchildren, which claimed the life of 14-year-old Stuart Dines, from Woodbridge as well as the two Norfolk victims.

Schade told the court: “I think about it (the accident) anew every day and would give my life if I could undo it all.”

The court yesterday found that he was driving his truck although he was exhausted when the accident happened in the early hours of February 11 on the A4 highway, near Cologne.

Stuart was travelling with fellow pupils and staff from Thomas Mills High School, Framlingham, in a double-decker coach heading for a half-term skiing trip in the Austrian resort of Fugen.

The coach suffered a puncture and pulled over onto the hard shoulder, with its emergency lights flashing.

Shortly afterwards, Schade's truck - which was laden with iron rods - crashed into the stationary bus and spun across the road, blocking traffic.

A second coach from Norwich School, which was travelling independently to a ski resort in the Alps, then ploughed into the pile-up, the court heard.

Stuart was killed in the crash when a piece of metal from the lorry smashed through one of the coach windows and Mr Lees also died. Jane Irving lost her fight for life in hospital two days later. Another 29 people were injured.

Yesterday's court case followed an investigation by the German authorities.

Presiding judge Peter Koenigsfeld told the court that the first coach “was parked in accordance with regulations on the hard shoulder and, because of the flashing warning lights and its internal lighting, was easily visible to anyone”.

Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence of two years and two months. The judge made clear that Schade's sentence was suspended because he had four children to care for.

“If it were not for your wife and children, you would certainly have got a prison sentence,” Mr Koenigsfeld told the defendant.

The tragedy left pupils of Norwich School and Thomas Mills School devastated.

It also emerged last night that Mr Marjoram will face no further court action.

Prosecutor Hendrik Timmer confirmed Brian Marjoram would not need to attend court in Germany in future and had asked the court to order he pay the £700.

Speaking from the court of Kerpen, Germany, yesterday, Mr Timmer said: “I have asked the court to send him a letter. Mr Marjoram does not need to attend court.

“He did have the possibility of stopping (before the accident). But there is no trial against him. I have asked the court of Kerpen to send a letter with a very high penalty. He does not have to pay this if he pays £700 to the hospice.”

Mr Timmer said he expects the court judge to agree the course of action and send a letter out shortly.

Last night, Norwich School headmaster Jim Hawkins declined to comment on the outcome of the court case.