11:47AM, Thursday 04 January 2018
A 95-year-old woman from Bray has been given a 16-month suspended sentence after admitting killing a grandfather with her car.
Gertrude Lister, of Vicarage Walk, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday, December 19 after she hit Paul Mills with her Hyundai i30 in Braywick Cemetery on Valentine's Day.
Mr Mills, a 47-year-old from Windsor was working for Royal Borough contractor ISS Facilities at the time.
Lister was sentenced at Reading Crown Court today (Thursday).
Speaking at the hearing, prosecution QC Richard Milne noted that medication Lister was taking was ‘unlikely to impair her driving ability’ and added she was ‘a person of good character with no previous convictions’.
He described the incident as ‘unintended acceleration’.
The court heard how Lister had been visiting her husband’s grave when she got into her car to leave the cemetery.
Mr Mills’ supervisor had parked their flatbed lorry in a position that was blocking access to the road as they tended the cemetery grounds.
In an attempt to go around the lorry, Lister pressed the accelerator instead of the brake before careering towards a verge that sent her car flying though the air, the court heard.
Mr Mills was working behind a hedge when the car hit him in mid-air before crashing through another hedge and coming to a stop.
He later died from his injuries at Wexham Park Hospital.
Defending, Richard Shepherd, praised the bravery of Lister in pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity and said she did so to ‘demonstrate her sorrow’.
He read a letter to the court sent by Lister to the Mills family, in which she expressed her deep sorrow and regret.
It said: “I wanted to write to you for the longest time and not one day goes past where I don’t think about what happened and how hard it must be for you as a family.
“Words cannot express how sorry I am.”
Judge Paul Dugdale said it was unusual not to give a custodial sentence in such cases.
He described the results of the forensic crash investigation which revealed how the incident is more common among automatic cars like the one Lister was driving.
He called the incident ‘utterly horrific’ but said Lister had shown ‘profound remorse’.
He added: “Often with death by dangerous driving there are a number of aggravating factors which can affect sentencing.
“But in this case there was none of that.
“The reality is that she made a serious driving error which had tragic consequences.”
Summing up, he described his decision as ‘very difficult with no right answers’.
Lister was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.
She was also banned from driving for life and told to pay £535 costs.
Appearing in court wearing a burgundy coat and pink scarf she was visibly upset as the sentence was read out.
The wife of Mr Mills left the public gallery swiftly following the sentencing.
Investigating officer PC Claire Miller, of the Joint Operations Unit for Roads Policing, said: “I hope the conviction goes some way towards helping Mr Mills’ family to be able to move on from this devastating time in their lives.”
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