A DELIVERY driver whose van rolled across a pub car park and onto the pavement where it hit a Southam woman causing fatal injuries has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Warwick Crown Court heard that Matheeb Iqbal had either not put the handbrake on or not put in on properly as he made a delivery to the Bowling Green Inn in Coventry Street, Southam.
The 22 year-old of Lime Grove, Lozells, Birmingham, was sentenced to 30 weeks in jail suspended for a year and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to causing Susan Collins’ death by careless driving.
Prosecutor Simon Ward said that on 30 December 2014 Iqbal, who worked as a delivery driver for M & J Seafoods, was making deliveries in an almost-new Mercedes Sprinter van.
He arrived at the Bowling Green at about 11am, and the van’s CCTV cameras, which do not show whether he put the handbrake on, recorded him getting out and shutting his door before going to the side door to get the food he was delivering.
“You lose sight of him, and after a few seconds the van starts to move slowly backwards and then gathers speed.
“It did not hit the entrance or other parked cars and went straight across the pavement just at the time Susan Collins was walking along the pavement.
“There would have been nothing she could do because it would have been moving at something of a pace by then, and it knocked her down before colliding with another vehicle.
“Mrs Collins was trapped under the driverless van. A number of passers-by saw much of what happened and tried to push the van to try to keep it from hitting her again because it was rocking.”
One of them, Dean Haynes, found the driver’s door was locked, but the window was partly-open, so he was able to open the door and pulled on the handbrake, the lever of which he said was flush to the floor.
Iqbal came out of the pub and was told his van had rolled back and to see what had happened.
Meanwhile Zoe Taylor tried to help Mrs Collins, who was drifting in and out of consciousness before being taken to hospital.
“She was terribly badly injured, but the hospital did everything they could to save her life, and at one stage it was thought she would survive, but she didn’t.”
And on January 8 her family made the difficult decision that the life support machine should be turned off.
Mr Ward pointed out it was the second tragedy to hit the family, because her husband Paul Collins had himself been killed by a careless driver three years earlier, and her two daughters were still coming to terms with that at the time.
The court heard a defence expert’s report concluded Iqbal had applied the handbrake, but not to its full capacity – but a prosecution expert said there was brake dust on the drum which would not have been there if the brake had been on.
Mr Ward also noted that the van’s passenger seatbelt had been clicked into the stall on the driver’s side, ‘the inference being that he didn’t want to wear his seatbelt because it would be inconvenient when making deliveries.’
When Iqbal, who seemed ‘shocked and stunned’ by what had happened, was interviewed he maintained he had put the brake on.
Andrew Baker, defending, said the incident was ‘a tragedy for everyone concerned,’ including Iqbal who had a clean driving licence and who was spoken highly of.
“There is genuine remorse. Prior to her death he was contacting the officer several times a day to see how Mrs Collins was. That was genuine concern.”
Sentencing Iqbal and disqualifying him for 12 months, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones said: “The words that this is a tragic case hardly do justice to the reality of what I’m confronted with.
“It is a terrible thing for a family to lose a loved one suddenly and because of the fault of someone else.
“It is almost beyond imagination to consider how terrible it is for a family to lose two loved ones through other people’s fault.”
He told Iqbal: “I don’t know whether you were cutting corners because you were feeling under pressure or simply wanting to get your work done quickly.
“But that context compels drivers to be extra-careful to ensure that when they stop they leave their vehicle safe. There could not be a more serious example of what can happen than the present case.
“You had parked your vehicle on a car park where there was not an obvious steep slope, and you had either not applied the handbrake at all or had done so wholly inadequately.
“Mrs Collins had no chance to avoid being struck; and neither you nor, more particularly, her family have the consolation of knowing she didn’t suffer – because we have to face the truth that she did.
“You yourself have suffered as a result of this terrible event, although compared to Mrs Collins’ loved ones, it is as nothing.”
But he added: “Although consequence does play a part in all sentencing, the crime of causing death by careless driving is by its nature one which makes the assumption that the consequence is as bad as can be.
“I am driven to the conclusion that in principle this has to be marked by a sentence of imprisonment, but I don’t intend to be cruel to you, it is a sentence I’m going to suspend.”