Driver urged to remember fatal crash

A young motorist whose careless driving led to the death of a motorcyclist was yesterday given a stern warning by a recorder to “never forget” what he had done.

A young motorist whose careless driving led to the death of a motorcyclist was yesterday given a stern warning by a recorder to “never forget” what he had done.

A jury found Joseph Walsh, 21, not guilty of causing the death of Thomas Sturman by dangerous driving after his Renault Laguna struck the 19-year-old biker at up to 60mph in a 30mph zone on Drayton Road, Norwich.

Walsh, who denied the offence and stood trial, was instead found guilty by a majority verdict of the lesser, alternative charge of careless driving and given a £2,000 fine, a five-year driving ban and £60 costs.

Sentencing him at Norwich Crown Court, Recorder Ian Foster looked Walsh in the eye and said: “The result of your carelessness on September 7 of last year will remain with you for the rest of your life.

“Never forget it.

“There is a family who will never forget it. I hope that you never forget it.”

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He said his sentencing powers were limited, adding: “You may now go, but never forget your appearance here.”

Under current legislation, someone convicted of causing death by dangerous driving can be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison, while the penalty for careless driving has a maximum penalty of a £2,500 fine.

However, under the new Road Safety Act, which has yet to come into force, a new charge of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving will carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Walsh, who was accompanied by his girlfriend and mother, appeared nervous and bowed his head, while the family of Mr Sturman wept quietly in the public gallery.

Mr Foster turned to them and said: “May I offer the condolences of the court to the family of the deceased, and to those people in particular who gave to the court two very moving victim impact statements. Thank you.”

Speaking after the case, Mr Sturman's family said the conviction showed “almost a complete disregard of Tom's life”.

Walsh, of Thunder Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, near Norwich, was driving in Drayton Road at 9.40pm when he collided with Mr Sturman's motorbike which had just pulled out of a junction.

The force of the crash shunted a parked car 25 metres along the road and flattened a road sign.

Mr Sturman was thrown from his bike, which burst into a ball of flames. He never regained consciousness and later died from serious multiple injuries.

Walsh claimed he had tried to avoid Mr Sturman but could not, saying the rider had pulled out in front of him.

He then asked police in interview: “I'm in serious trouble aren't I? I'm really, really sorry.”

An accident investigator told the court that, in his opinion, had Walsh been driving at the speed limit he would have been able to stop and avoid any collision with the motorbike.

In a statement, Mr Sturman's mother, Jan Lindberg, said: “We are devastated.

“He was more than a son to me, he was my best mate. We had really good fun together and I know his brother feels exactly the same way. He's also been left completely shattered.

“We are pleased someone has been brought to justice for what happened and I do feel that no custodial sentence that could have been passed would have made any difference to us because it wouldn't have brought Tom back.

“But I do feel there is a gap in the law. This man has only been found guilty of careless driving and that shows almost a complete disregard of Tom's life.

“I just hope that he today learns from this. He will have to live with it for the rest of his life.”

A former Framingham Earl High School pupil, Mr Sturman moved to Hemming Way, Norwich, with his girlfriend of two years, Mikki.

He worked at Tesco in Sprowston's Blue Boar Lane at weekends and shortly before he died he was promoted to bar supervisor at the city's Optic nightclub in Prince of Wales Road.

Mrs Lindberg, who now lives in Sweden, said: “Tom had plans. He enjoyed life. He loved his girlfriend and wanted to marry her and have children. None of that can happen now.

“I hope young people take heed of this case and realise that when they get in their cars, if they don't drive responsibly, they could be cutting down an innocent person with their whole life ahead of them.”

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