Totton driver Deividas Balkauskas spared jail over death of Sway dad Simon Poole
A TOTTON motorist who ploughed into and killed a “devoted and larger than life” father-of-three nine days before Christmas was spared an immediate spell in jail.
Deividas Balkauskas (41) struck Simon Poole, from Sway, as he was crossing the A33 in Southampton having just left his work Christmas do, Southampton Crown Court heard.
Mr Poole was with four colleagues just after 10.30pm on 16th December 2019, prosecutor Edward Elton explained.
While his companions went towards nearby crossings Mr Poole, who was three times the drink-drive limit, walked straight across the road.
A colleague saw a BMW M5 travelling towards them quickly and one remarked: "That’s moving” – seconds later they “heard a thud”.
Mr Elton added: “The defendant’s BMW hit Mr Poole and sent him into the air. He landed about five to six car lengths away.
“The BMW came to a stop and the defendant was seen to get out of the vehicle and heard to say ‘Oh no’.”
Balkauskas was arrested at the scene and found to have no traces of drink or drugs in his system. Mr Poole was rushed to hospital but died of his injuries at 11.15pm.
Mr Elton said experts estimated Balkaskas was doing 51-51mph immediately before the crash and around 43mph on impact.
It was dark and the road surface was wet at the time of the incident, Mr Elton added.
A heart-wrenching victim impact statement from Mr Poole’s wife, Louise, said: “This has completely blown our world apart and devastated this happy family.
"We are still trying to rebuild ourselves. Our lives have been changed forever.”
She said her husband was a devoted husband and father, who loved spending his weekends cooking for his children, walking in the Forest, putting the world to rights with his eldest daughter and coaching his son at rugby.
All three children had been “severely impacted” by the loss of their father, who she described as “larger than life".
The family had moved to the Midlands to deal with the fallout of his death, but had since moved back to the New Forest, Louise explained.
“The pain, impact and sadness of not having Simon in our lives has been immense,” Louise added. "I don’t really know how I make it through each day.”
Balkauskas had a previous offence of drink-driving, Mr Elton added.
The defendant had denied a charge of causing death by dangerous driving but on the morning of the trial he admitted an alternative of causing death by careless driving.
Defending, Andy Houston said his client was very remorseful over what had happened, adding: “This is one of those awful mornings at the crown court where nobody wins and everybody loses.
“What a terrible advert for Christmas parties that such a happy evening should end in such a tragedy all round."
He stressed Balkauskas, who has settled status in the UK having been here for more than a decade, was a hard-working man who supported his family and his ailing father-in-law, who required care.
Balkauskas had worked as a driver at the time, but since being disqualified had changed jobs and now worked night shifts loading trucks. His employer gave him a glowing reference.
Mr Houston pointed out his client had been seen on CCTV travelling at the speed limit shortly before the incident and sped for a “brief few seconds” before the incident.
Handing down a suspended jail term, Judge Gary Burrell said sentencing guidelines stated there needed to be extra circumstances for immediate prison, such as the driver being intoxicated or racing, and in this case they were not factors, while the speeding was brief.
Additionally, experts had noted that even if Balkauskas had been travelling at the 30mph speed limit, he might not have avoided the victim, who was wearing dark clothing.
Noting the level of alcohol in Mr Poole’s system, Judge Burrell said his “ability to assess the speed and distance was likely to have been affected”.
“I make it clear that the fact I am suspending the sentence is in no way a reflection of the seriousness of this case, nor the effect on Simon Poole’s family. It’s quite dreadful,” he said.
Balkauskas was given an 18-month jail term, suspended for two years. He was also told to do 250 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,000 court charges.