Farmer Henry Bett jailed over fatal tractor crash
PUBLISHED: 09:23 21 August 2015 | UPDATED: 09:23 21 August 2015
A Norfolk man who killed a woman with his tractor has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Henry Bett, son of Norfolk police and crime commissioner (PCC) Stephen Bett, was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving after a trial last month.
The 26-year-old, of Hall Lane, Thornham, Norfolk, killed mother-of-four Rebecca Brown, 43, when he drove his tractor head-on into her Fiat people carrier. Her teenage son was also travelling in the car.
Jurors at Huntingdon Law Courts heard he was speeding, driving in the middle of the road and may have been suffering the come-down effects of cocaine at the time.
Bett, known as Harry, cried in the dock as judge Peter Murphy passed sentence.
Mr Murphy said: “In such a case there are no winners. Nothing can compensate for the loss the Brown family has endured.”
He added that earlier cocaine use may well have contributed to what happened.
The judge said he was concerned that although professing to feel remorse, Bett had forced Mrs Brown’s family to go through the ordeal of a crown court trial.
“You were driving well over the wrong side of the road and I’m quite satisfied that although she tried to take evasive action, Mrs Brown had no chance,” he added.
“The circumstances clearly indicate to me that, if not over any speed limit, you were driving too fast for the prevailing conditions.
“I think you were guilty of failing to look for or see the Fiat and really a complete lack of attention to what was around the bend.”
Bett was disqualified from driving for five years.
Mrs Brown’s family attended court and looked shaken throughout the hearing.
Bett’s father, mother, girlfriend and other family members also attended along with several friends.
Prosecutor Isabel Delamere said: “Mrs Brown would have seen the tractor coming towards her because she clearly took evasive action to give it space to pass.
“She pulled across to the nearest verge, giving him plenty of space.
“The defendant does not appear to have seen her, despite having some 100 metres of visibility.”
Mrs Brown died on the West Acre Road, near her home village of Castle Acre, on December 4 2013. Her car was crushed when it was hit by Bett’s Fendt tractor as he returned from working on a nearby estate.
She died moments later despite the attempts of her son, Tom, then 17, to save her following the crash.
Bett admitted he had occasionally used cocaine and the last time he used the drug was some four days earlier.
Expert evidence suggested he had either taken a small amount of the drug 12 to 24 hours before the crash or a larger amount a longer time before.
He was not under the influence of the drug but may have been experiencing a “come down”.
Miss Delamere added that Bett did attempt to help Mrs Brown in the aftermath of the crash.
Lawrence Brown, mitigating, said the “notoriety” of Bett’s father had magnified the level of media interest in the case.
He added: “He will carry the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life and no punishment will come even close to that sentence.
“His remorse is very genuine and evident - he could not be more remorseful. His sorrow, his shame, his horror is absolutely complete.
“That moment of madness was spectacularly out of the character and the reputation he has otherwise held.
“In those two to three seconds, he destroyed that good name and impeccable character.”
“Life for our family stopped as we knew it”
Mrs Brown’s husband Stephen Brown said in a statement read to the court: “Life for our family stopped as we knew it as police officers arrived at our front door and told us of the death of Becky.”
He added that Bett’s lack of remorse and attempt to argue that Mrs Brown was to blame for the crash had exacerbated the family’s grief.
“I feel hurt that Henry Bett does not show any remorse at what he has done and in fact has tried to blame Becky.
“I originally did not wish anybody to go to prison but now feel anger at Henry Bett and feel he should answer for what he has done.
“Her death has robbed us of all future memories.
“I do not know how we will come to terms with her death.”
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mrs Brown’s father described her as a “caring and devoted” wife and mother.
He added: “Our world has fallen apart.”
The court heard Bett has a pending prosecution for an allegation of speeding and careless driving in his Land Rover on June 20 - about six weeks before the trial began.
Bett also has four earlier speeding endorsements from 2011.
Character witnesses said he had been left devastated by the incident.
Family friend Harry Nicholls, who went to school with Stephen Bett, said: “I have known him from a baby.
“He has been brought up to be responsible for the things that he does.
“He grew up with discipline and I know that he feels terrible remorse.”
In a statement afterwards, Mrs Brown’s family said: “All of us have lost someone very dear and no words can describe how we feel.
“Her death was avoidable and cut short by the actions of an irresponsible driver but fortunately the justice system has seen fit to prevail.
“Although a custodial sentence has been passed it will never compensate for our loss. Becky, who had a cheerful attitude to life, was a loving mother, wife, daughter and sister who was much loved by all.
“Becky tragically leaves behind her four children who she adored and always put first.
“Recognition should be given to Thomas, Becky’s son who has shown great courage and maturity when witnessing his mother’s death but also giving evidence at the trial.
“His brother and sisters have made us proud in the way they have coped with the death of their mother.”
“In conclusion we would like to thank our friends and family for their support.
“We would also like to express our gratitude to Essex and Norfolk Police for the professional investigation carried out on behalf of Rebecca.”
Detective Sergeant Dave Jones, from the Essex Police Serious Collision Investigation Unit which investigated the crime because of Bett’s links to Norfolk Police, said: “This case highlights the tragic consequences of failing to act responsibly when behind the wheel of a vehicle.
“Rebecca Brown lost her life in circumstances that were wholly avoidable and Henry Bett will have to pay the price for his dangerous driving. All road users, especially those driving larger vehicles, need to consider other people; particularly those who are more vulnerable than themselves.”