Woman with fatal brain tumour who killed 21-year-old man in crash is spared jail

PUBLISHED: 15:58 09 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:43 10 January 2018

Lucy Barham at Norwich Crown Court, who pleaded guilty to death by careless driving, killing Christopher Fuller. PICTURE: Denise Bradley

Lucy Barham at Norwich Crown Court, who pleaded guilty to death by careless driving, killing Christopher Fuller. PICTURE: Denise Bradley

Archant, Norfolk 2017

A single mother dying of a brain tumour who “should not have been on the road” has been spared jail after killing a “bright and fun-loving” 21-year-old.

Christopher Fuller died aged 21 in a car accident in Fincham. Picture: Courtesy of David FullerChristopher Fuller died aged 21 in a car accident in Fincham. Picture: Courtesy of David Fuller

Lucy Barham was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in 2007 and given between five and seven years to live. Doctors have since told her treatment is no longer possible.

The 34-year-old from Downham Market failed to inform the DVLA of her condition and had her licence revoked in November 2016, after she had killed young Chris Fuller in a head-on collision on the A1122 Swaffham Road at Fincham on September 8 of that year.

She admitted causing death by careless driving in November 2017 and at sentencing this morning, Judge Stephen Holt spared her immediate custody.

Giving Barham 20 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, Judge Holt told her: “I can see no good to anybody from imposing an immediate custodial sentence to someone in your condition.”

Reading emotional victim impact statements, Chris’ parents told Norwich Crown Court they have been left “truly heartbroken”.

When Chris failed to return home from meeting friends in Fakenham, his mother Shirley had set out to look for him at around 10pm.

Christopher Fuller with sister Sheryl Fuller and brother James Fuller. Picture: David FullerChristopher Fuller with sister Sheryl Fuller and brother James Fuller. Picture: David Fuller

“I sent lots of messages and rang his phone but there was no response,” she said. “I drove the route he would have taken and as I got to Fincham cars coming in the opposite way were flashing their headlights at me.

“I immediately knew something had happened to Chris.”

Barham’s Citroen had been on the wrong side of the road when it hit Chris’ Seat head on. Collision investigators concluded he would have died almost instantly.

“There is no obvious explanation for the collision and the defendant has no recollection of what occurred,” said prosecutor Stephen Spence. “A possible cause could be the defendant had taken the preceding bend too fast to maintain position in her own carriageway.”

“There were three opportunities to inform the DVLA of her medical condition. It would be speculative to say the cause of this accident was directly linked to her medical condition. Irrespective of the offence, this is a defendant who should not have been on the road.”

Chris, who lived in Three Holes, near Wisbech, leaves behind parents David and Shirley, and siblings James Fuller, Jada Mystic, Melissa Fuller and Sheryl Fuller.

Christopher Fuller pictured here with his siblings. Picture: David FullerChristopher Fuller pictured here with his siblings. Picture: David Fuller

Mrs Fuller told the court the family are “devastated” at the loss. Chris had been an organ donor but the damage caused by the collision meant it was not possible.

“Even at the funeral I pictured his coffin was not very heavy because there was so little left of him,” said Mrs Fuller.

“Chris’ future has been taken away but his sister says his spirit lives on in the butterflies.

“We grieve for what we won’t experience with him. It is a physical pain which is with us all the time. We are truly heartbroken.

“There are no days where there are no tears. We miss his laughs, his giggles and his cheeky smile. We lost our child but also the hopes, dreams and expectations we had of him.

“It breaks our hearts we never got to say goodbye.”

Shirley and David Fuller. Picture: David FullerShirley and David Fuller. Picture: David Fuller

David Fuller, Chris’ father, said his son was “a young man with a heart as big as Norfolk”.

“I lost my future with my son,” he told the court. “ We shared DNA but also a trust. I lost someone who knew me and what I stood for.

“Unless you have lived through this; had your heart pulled out and world turned over, you do not understand the pain we have had to face.

“This pain will never go away. The loss of my son will be haunting me until my dying day.”

Mitigating for Barham, John Farmer said the collision had been “a single, very short-lived piece of careless driving which had a fatal consequence.”

“It is a piece of driving which - had the unfortunate deceased not been coming in the opposite direction - would have had no consequence,” he told the court.

“The defendant’s own situation in coming to terms with the damage she has caused to another family is coming to terms with what will, in the not very far future, cause damage to her own family. Looking into the tunnel of her own mind she is very alert to the pain of the family of the deceased with her own very acute personal circumstances.”

Judge Holt praised the “courage and dignity” of Mrs and Mrs Fuller, adding: “I am very much aware any words I say can in no way console or compensate for the tragic death and loss of Chris.”

He told Barham: “I have watched you very carefully and I think you are remorseful. It is a fact you suffer from a malignant, cancerous brain tumour and no future treatment is possible.

“Your time left to have, nobody knows.”

Drive with care

“Drive with care and think of the pain it would cause your family if you were killed”.

That is the message from Chris Fuller’s aunt, Lynda Gaskin-Nunn, in her victim impact statement.

She told Norwich Crown Court her nephew had grown into a “wonderful young man” whose life had been robbed in a moment of carelessness.

“Many happy memories and future memories have been snatched away,” she said. “An unnecessary death caused by carelessness. I look at my own life and say I want to be next as I can’t bear this pain. His brother and sisters have grief hanging over them for the rest of their lives.

“We were already a small family then see a loved member stolen in one crash. Life seems to lurch from one bad day to another. I just want him back. It is hard to believe he is gone forever. He should have been attending my funeral, not me to his.

“No family should feel this unnecessary pain.

“I would ask all to drive with care and think of the pain it would cause their family if they were killed.

We hope she can find some peace

Following the sentencing, Chris’ family released a statement in which they hoped Barham could “find some peace” with her prognosis.

The statement on behalf of the whole family read: “Whilst we expected the court’s decision, we, as a family, have been dismayed by Miss Barham’s apparent lack of remorse for her actions.

“We hope that Miss Barham will now spend the remainder of whatever time she may have left to reflect upon the damage that her negligence has caused but also hope that she can find some peace with her prognosis.

“No verdict today could have brought back our darling son, however, now we have reached the end of this agonisingly protracted process, we are now feel finally able to focus on the future with our son always at the forefront our minds.”

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box below for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad, serving as your advocate and trusted source of local information. Our industry is facing testing times, which is why I’m asking for your support. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce award-winning local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Thank you.

Most Read

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Most Read

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press