The driver who admitted causing the death of cyclist Kevin Lane due to her careless driving walked free from court last Friday afternoon after being given a 12-month community order and banned from the road for three years.
See here for my report in today’s Evening Standard on the sentencing of Marjorie Tappenden and the anger from Mr Lane’s partner, Angela Cook, that justice has been shown to be a “joke”: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/if-you-want-to-kill-someone-get-in-a-car-justice-is-a-joke-victims-girlfriend-attacks-sentence-as-pensioner-is-spared-jail-over-cyclists-death-10020489.html
Below is as full a shorthand note as I was able to take from the summing up of the judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
Judge William Kennedy said: “There is nothing that I can say to make this better. This is a tragedy for both sides in this court. I’m desperately sorry for all of you in the situation you find yourselves in.
“On the one hand, we had a decent man who was loved and cared for, who went riding his bike, for leisure, for health, as part of his ordinary enjoyment of life.
“On the other hand, a blameless character who has never before been involved in any incident. Quite simply, she pushed the wrong pedal. Of course, frozen to the spot, it took moments for the car to stop. Long moments. Moments which effectively took the life of the cyclist. The whole thing was a single source of error, with those dreadful results.
“I must disqualify her from driving and say she must pass an extended test were she ever to drive again.
“There are no winners here. There are only losers in this room. That is a tragedy. Motor vehicles are lethal. Those who drive them are expected to do so with skill, with care, so far as possible, in a way that guarantees the absolute need for safety for those on the roads who need protected, such as cyclists. These were a few seconds which simply had desperate consequences.”
Judge Kennedy, who said he lived in Woodford Green and knew the junction well, said the maximum sentence that could be imposed for causing death by careless driving was five years, and then only after a trial in which the defendant had pleaded not guilty, and where there were a series of “aggravating factors”.
Such factors included taking a car without consent, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the driver having previous offences, there being more than one person killed or suffering serious injuries, and the driver failing to stop afterwards. None of these features applied in this case, he said. Also, Mrs Tappenden, whose alcohol reading was zero, had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving at the earliest opportunity, entitling her to a third reduction in her sentence.
He referred to the question of the defendant’s remorse: “Certainly the probation service have heard her to express remorse. While this whole thing is a dreadful blur, she has said she will think about it every day for the rest of her life.”
Judge Kennedy said that the Criminal Justice Act 2003 set out the guidelines for sentences – punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation.
“Nowhere is mentioned revenge,” he said. “I don’t think I can say or do anything to this elderly lady more eloquent than that she says to herself.
“All of us dread that dreadful moment that we have not thought or concentrated as much as we would like. She won’t drive again. Her life will become that of looking after her husband. That is as eloquent a punishment and as comprehensive a deterrent as I think anyone could advise. I’m not sending this 74-year-old to prison. It’s not within my power to do so. It would not be just to do so.
“There will be a community order for the period of 12 months. Of course, she is disqualified for three years. She cannot drive again without an extended driving test.”
Turning to Ms Cook and Mr Lane’s family, he said: “I have not been able to help you at all. All of you must move on. I would have to be made of stone not to have been moved by each and every syllable [of Ms Cook’s statement]. But there is life at the end of this for you. I very much hope that life starts now.”