A £300 fine and six penalty points for a man involved in a fatal car crash has been labelled “disgusting” by the victim’s family.
Lee Barrett, 19, of Valence Wood Road, in Dagenham, was also ordered to pay £70 costs and a £15 victim surcharge after admitting driving without due care and attention in relation to a crash which claimed the life of father-of-ten Derrick Russell.
Mr Russell, 60, of Longcroft Rise, in Loughton, was killed when his Nissan Sunny was hit head-on by Barrett’s Renault Clio car in Pudding Lane, Chigwell, on November 26 last year.
He was taken to hospital, but died of head injuries the next day.
Harlow Magistrates Court heard on Tuesday, October 21, that in his police interview Barrett, an apprentice electrician, had insisted that he had always stayed on his side of the road.
A police investigation and subsequent inquest suggested Barrett had actually slid across the road while negotiating a bend at about 40mph and moved into the path of Mr Russell who had been driving in the opposite direction at about 20mph.
Speaking in court, Barrett’s defence lawyer Julia Furley said her client had made an “honest mistake” at his interview and deserved credit for not challenging the expert evidence, and pleading guilty.
She said: “This is indeed a very tragic accident.
Mr Barrett did everything he could to avoid the collision.
Unfortunately Mr Russell was not in fact wearing his seat belt.
While Mr Barrett was knocked unconscious from the impact of his airbag Mr Russell didn’t have the benefit of that and was flung from his car.
That’s the reason why this accident has had such serious results.
“Mr Barrett’s guilty plea is entered on the basis of a misjudgment as he took that bend.
He was a matter of feet too close to the edge of the road.”
She added: “As he regained consciousness Mr Barrett ran to the other car and took Mr Russell and pulled him down the road to safety and away from the two vehicles, one of which was alight.
He was also responsible for calling the ambulance.
“To his credit he did everything he possibly could to try to remove Mr Russell and deal with the situation.”
Mr Russell’s younger brother, Ken, told the Guardian he was “amazed” at the sentence.
He said: “I just don’t know what to say. I think it’s disgusting. He wasn’t even on the right side of the road when he hit my brother head-on.
“I’ve lost a brother, his wife’s lost a husband, all the children are without a father all because of what he did.
I just hope he can sleep at night.”
Derrick’s older brother, Bill, said: “I know he didn’t mean to kill my brother, but you don’t get a lot do you? It just seems wrong to get six points and a £300 fine for someone’s life.”
He added he would be contacting a solicitor to look at the possibility of further legal action, and said he hoped more traffic calming measures would be introduced along Pudding Lane.
Derrick Russell also leaves a wife, Lynne, six daughters and four sons.
Paying tribute to his brother, Ken Russell said: “He was a very funny person.
He never seemed down. He always worked hard for his family and was a good father to every single one of his children.
We are all going to miss him a lot.”