Lorry driver who killed two people in 'tragic' A47 crash jailed
- Credit: Kirsty (@InTahUk)
A "remorseful" lorry driver who killed two people and seriously injured another in a "tragic" three-vehicle collision has been jailed.
Daniel Hewett, 48, of Fairfax Road, Norwich, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and given a 19-and-a-half month driving ban after pleading guilty to two counts of causing death by careless driving on the A47 at Little Fransham on March 6 last year.
Judge Katharine Moore, who presided over the hearing at Norwich Crown Court, first heard the details of the event on Thursday, June 24 — but said she needed the night to "reflect on the evidence" in a "far from simple case".
Addressing the defendant on Friday, she recalled the events leading up to his fatal decision, which resulted in the death of 78-year-old Peter Stebbings, from Necton, and 47-year-old Calvin Beckett, who was born in Norwich but spent most of his life in Mattishall.
The judge said to Hewett: "By all accounts it was a clear day and visibility was good.
"You were travelling above the speed limit for your vehicle, and though you could clearly see the traffic slowing ahead of you from about 14 seconds before the crash, you began accelerating.
"At about four seconds before the crash you were travelling at 56mph, when the cars ahead were clearly either stationary or barely moving.
"At this point you applied the brakes. You then swerved to avoid the cars in front of you, veered into the opposite lane and then swerved back.
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"The lorry you were driving toppled, and you collided with Mr Beckett and Mr Stebbings, who was with his wife at the time.
"You plainly admit you are responsible for the crash. You had a clear and unobstructed view, and plenty of time to act."
Jonathan Goodman, defending Hewett, said the father-of-three had "no recollection" of what had happened and could not explain his actions.
He said it was a "tragic mistake", albeit one with the "worst imaginable consequences".
The judge said she accepted Hewett's "clear remorse", that he was a family man with three young children, the sole breadwinner and, ordinarily, "a perfectly careful driver".
However, she rejected the defence's position that this was a "momentary lapse" in concentration, and instead called it an "extended period of inattention", which put the offence into the top and most "serious category" of carelessness.
Concluding the hearing, she said she had taken into account Hewett's "strong personal mitigation", and the fact he is at no risk of reoffending, but that custody was unavoidable.
"There is no other appropriate punishment", she said. "I have made the sentence as short as it can be."
At Thursday's hearing, the court heard just how agonising the victim's deaths were for their loved ones.
Addressing the court on Friday, prosecutor Lynne Shirley said she had spoken to Janette Swales, the daughter of Mr and Mrs Stebbings, to "get an update" on her mother's condition.
Mrs Stebbings was the third victim, and has been left with life-changing injuries after sustaining damage to her spinal cord and breaking all her ribs on her right side.
Ms Shirley said: "Mentally, Mrs Stebbings is really struggling.
"She was with her husband for 57 years and they did everything together.
"She's had counselling and is on antidepressants, and still takes morphine for her back injuries."
She went on: "The impact of the collision has totally changed Mrs Stebbings' life.
"She needs a walking stick now, and can't do many of the things she used to love doing, like hiking."
Ms Swales, in her personal impact statement, said: "Every one of us must treasure every day we spend with our loved ones, because you never know when they will be taken away."
Meanwhile Hannah Stork and Camelia Winsley, Mr Beckett's sisters, said they were devastated "they would never have the opportunity to have [him] back in their lives again".
Calvin Beckett lived in Dereham, was a driver for Jewson and chairman of Toftwood Social Club.
Peter Stebbings, meanwhile, was a retired quantity surveyor and avid gardener.
Judge Moore said the two were "clearly much-loved and much-missed", and that "no sentence can put a value on their lives or the loss their families have suffered".