A PENSIONER who ploughed into and killed an 86-year-old woman and left her granddaughter with life-changing injuries was spared an immediate spell in jail.
Wheelchair-bound Pauline Cove (78) was responsible for a “shocking” incident at the Totton Morrisons superstore on 12th July 2018. Her Peugeot 207 car struck Doris Lush and Rebecca Lush (22) as they stood near an ATM machine.
Doris died from her injuries while Rebecca had to spend six weeks in hospital and undergo four surgeries. She is now permanently disabled and has been forced to abandon her dream of being a forensic scientist.
Cove, of Hounsdown Road, Totton, appeared at Salisbury Crown Court this morning (Monday) to be sentenced for causing death and serious injuries by careless driving – a jury having found her guilty of both charges at an earlier trial.
But Judge Neil Garnham QC said he was persuaded to take the “exceptional course” of allowing Cove to keep her liberty because prior to the incident she was of good character, her driving record was impeccable and she had showed “genuine remorse” for what she had done.
He also said she was vulnerable in prison because of her age, chronic arthritis in her hip and knee, and her son Roy – a 51-year-old recovering drug addict – had reconnected with and was reliant on her.
Her going to prison would have a “harmful impact” on Roy, Judge Garnham said.
Cove’s 18-month prison term was suspended for two years by the judge, who added: “You were at fault and must be punished for that you did.
It had been a “momentary” error but one with “tragic consequences”, the judge stressed.
Cove’s trial heard that after the defendant finished her shopping at 11.55am, she reversed out of a disabled parking bay and was driving towards the store when she collided with both women.
After the crash, other motorists and shoppers rushed to help the victims before paramedics arrived. Both were taken to hospital but Doris could not be saved.
In her defence, Cove admitted she caused the crash but suggested she fainted moments before and was thereby incapable of avoiding it.
However, the prosecution, led by Rose Burns, contested that claim, suspecting her foot slipped or she accidentally hit the accelerator pedal.
Moments after the crash, the jury heard, Cove was conscious and told someone who went to her aid: “Those poor women.”
She was also pictured on CCTV with both hands on the steering wheel moments before the impact and sitting in an upright position, while witnesses said her car was “lurching forward” amid “heavy revving”.
At the sentencing, Judge Garnham said the jury had rejected suggestions by Cove’s legal team she may have had a temporary syncopy but he accepted her claim she did not recall the crash.
He said the car was travelling at around 25mph when it hit the two women, adding: “I think the overwhelming likelihood is your foot slipped off the clutch, causing the vehicle to speed forward a short distance to the supermarket wall.
“This was plainly dangerous, and the consequences were devastating for the Lush family. It’s plain the pain, grief and loss the Lush family has suffered is profound and enduring,” the judge said.