Grandmother killed biker by driving lorry through red light
A GRANDMOTHER killed a motorcyclist after driving her lorry through a red light at a major junction, a court heard.
Caroline French, aged 47, crossed into the path of rider Andy Carter at the Manadon roundabout, Plymouth Crown Court was told.
Mr Carter, a 51-year-old father-of-two, was killed instantly in the collision with the 20-ton tipper truck.
French was given a 30-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months and disqualified from driving for a year. She must do 200 hours unpaid work and pay £400 towards prosecution costs.
French, who lives on a farm at Wrangaton near South Brent, admitted causing death by careless driving on August 8, 2011. She had denied an alternative charge of causing death by dangerous driving – a plea accepted by the prosecution.
Judge Paul Darlow told French: "You chose to ignore for about five seconds, three seconds amber and two seconds red, what the traffic lights were telling you to do.You were simply not paying enough attention to what those lights were telling you before you crossed into the path of the motorcycle."
Praising the dignified way the family behaved in court, he said: "No sentence the court can ever pass can adequately reflect the value of the life of the innocent victim."
David Evans, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said French was leaving the westbound A38 via the slip lane for the city centre at the Manadon roundabout at around 3.15pm.
He added Mr Carter, from Whitleigh, approached the roundabout from Mannamead Road. He said witnesses said he stopped at a red light and then continued through a green signal.
Mr Evans added Mr Carter, riding a Kawasaki, was struck from the right by the lorry and killed instantly.
He said the lights she faced would have been on amber for three seconds and on red for two before the lights at the Mannamead Road junction changed to green.
Mr Evans said: "It seems simply that she drove through the red lights."
He added she was travelling at an estimated 25mph at the time of the crash. Tachograph analysis showed she had "paused" at the junction, Mr Evans said.
He added she had been given three penalty points in 2009 for driving through a red light.
The court heard she had been driving since she was 17 and had had a HGV licence since 1991.
Richard Bond, for the defendant, said: "Caroline French hopes that the family of the deceased and can now grieve properly for their loss".
He handed in a sheaf of character references from family, friends and employer, aggregates company WG Underhill.
Mr Bond said: "They show that apart from the incident she is a thoroughly decent human being."
He added she could appreciate the grief suffered by Mr Carter's family because her father had been killed in an accident with a low loader when she was 17.
Mr Bond said French, who sat with head bowed, would now lose her job.
The Carter family issued a statement after the hearing, saying: "We feel that the sentencing was as expected, in so much as the law allows. The family has mixed feelings because of the previous red light incident.
"Some feel that a custodial sentence should have been imposed. We can grieve properly and move on to remember Andrew as the person he was."
Sgt Steve Walker, senior investigating officer on the case, said: "This just goes to show that a seemingly minor road traffic offence like going through a red light can have devastating consequences.
"Caroline French is distraught by what has happened here. That's something she'll have to live with for the rest of her life."