Motorist who ‘ignored’ road signs before fatal collision is spared prison

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The A326 junction as approached from Staplewood Lane, with the entrance to Park Lane to the right

A DELIVERY driver who killed a motorcyclist in a collision at Marchwood after ignoring a host of road signs was spared an immediate prison sentence by a judge.

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Brian Moles (53) got distracted while following his sat nav, pulled out onto the A326 road and hit Paul Matthews (56) on his Harley-Davidson motorbike, causing him “unsurvivable injuries”, Southampton Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Richard Martin said Moles was at the wheel of a Mercedes Sprint van at the time of the incident, at 10am on Saturday 8th September last year.

Moles, who worked for Totton-based Harvest Foods, had completed a delivery at Southampton Football Club and drove along Staplewood Lane towards its junction with the A326, passing a ‘keep left’ arrow and a ‘no right turn’ instruction on the way.

Additionally, there is a traffic island on the junction approach that is shaped to discourage drivers from turning right, Mr Martin said.

However, after reaching the junction, Moles paused and slowly pulled out towards the northbound carriageway to turn right when he collided with Mr Matthews’ bike as it overtook the traffic. At the time the bike was doing 45mph, marginally over the 40 limit.

While Moles was unfamiliar with the road, Mr Matthews knew it well and would not have been expecting someone to be turning right since traffic should not do that, Mr Martin stressed.

Prior to the collision the driver of a car following Moles had “tooted her horn” loudly to warn him he should not be turning right, Mr Martin added.

Police were called and arrested Moles at the scene while Mr Matthews was rushed to Southampton General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Moles, who had a clean driving licence until the incident, passed a breathalyser test. No defects were found with his car or Mr Matthews’ bike, the road was dry and conditions at the time good.

In a moving victim statement Mr Matthews’ widow, Andrea, said her “whole world had changed dramatically” since the crash and questioned if Moles turned right merely to “save time” on his journey.

Crash victim Paul Matthews

She lamented all she had now were “memories” of Mr Matthews, adding they should have celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary weeks after the incident, but instead she planned his funeral.

“Sometimes [the grief] is all consuming and it is an effort just to get up in the morning. Weekends now are extra hard – sometimes they seem to last an eternity.

“I’m just angry in this situation. Angry that you thought your time was so important,” she said. “It does not get any easier, nothing will ever be the same. Every day is a new challenge for me on my own.”

Moles, a father of three, appeared before the court having pleaded guilty to one count of causing death by dangerous driving.

Sushil Kumar, defending, acknowledged his client told police in interview that at the time of the incident he was following the directions of his TomTom device, which told him to make a right turn.

In his accident report to the court, he said Moles had intended to turn right into Park Lane, a small side road which feeds off Staplewood Lane and is 12 metres from the A326.

What happened, he added, was Moles travelled past his turning into the road and reached the A326 junction before the TomTom gave a further verbal instruction.

That was confirmed by an independent expert, who took the sat nav Moles used and drove the same route.

Stressing his client was a man of good character, who had up until now led an “exemplary life”, Mr Kumar said he was “genuinely remorseful” and insisted his client did not deliberately ignore the signs but had been “distracted” by the sat nav and had “not registered” the road signs.

He gave the court character references on Moles, which described him as “loving, dependable and kind”, including one from Harvest Foods.

Moles did not work solely as a driver for the company, but drove on occasions, he said, and while the firm was supportive it had said were Moles to go to prison he would lose his job.

Addressing the punishment, Mr Kumar pleaded for his client to be spared an immediate spell in jail. He did so on the basis Moles lived with his daughter, a carer, and her five-year-old child – whom he cared for when his daughter was at work.

Were Moles to be jailed, his daughter would be unable to afford the rent of their Lyon Street home in Southampton and she would be made homeless.

Sentencing, Judge Peter Henry said: “In the space of time probably measured in seconds, the manner of your driving caused a collision that killed Mr Matthews and turned Mrs Matthews’ world upside down, as so distressingly reflected in her victim impact statement.

He added: “Regrettably, while being a useful navigation aid, these devices can so often distract. You were distracted by the satnav, distracted by the proximity of the right-hand turn into Park Lane, and you should have taken more care and you should have realised, but I am prepared to accept this was not deliberate.

“I am going to sentence you on the basis you were distracted and made a terrible but fatal error, rather than deliberate bullying driving,” Judge Henry continued.

“If I had come to the conclusion you deliberately ignored the road signs, the sentence you would have been facing would be significantly different to the one I am going to impose.”

Moles was handed a 22-month prison term suspended for two years. He was ordered to do 300 hours unpaid work and pay £1,800 court costs.

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