Driver handed curfew for motorcyclist death

Memorial plaque to motorcyclist Stephen Whitehead unveiled by his widow Helen and their family.

Memorial plaque to motorcyclist Stephen Whitehead unveiled by his widow Helen and their family. - Credit: Archant

A DISTRICT judge has admitted handing a woman a curfew for killing a motorcyclist may be seen as ‘inadequate’ by some, as the biker’s widow left court in tears.

Stephen Whitehead died last September

Stephen Whitehead died last September - Credit: Archant

Stephen Whitehead’s family wept as District Judge Lynne Matthews also banned 64-year-old Janet Childs from driving for 12 months.

The father-of-four died after being hit by Childs’ Volkswagen Polo on the A371 between Weston and Banwell on August 26.

He suffered a ‘severe neck injury’ and died in Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, 24 days later.

Childs admitted one count of causing death by careless driving when she appeared at North Somerset Courthouse in St Georges last month, and she was sentenced on Monday.

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Mr Whitehead, a 56-year-old forklift driver from Winscombe, was overtaking stationary traffic when Childs pulled out of the jam to turn around.

Eyewitness accounts differed on whether she had indicated before attempting the manoeuvre.

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Carl May-Smith, defending, said Childs has regretted what has happened every day since, has been forced into retirement after forfeiting her licence and has needed medication and counselling to cope.

Judge Matthews praised Childs for pleading guilty and saving widow Helen Whitehead and her family from the ordeal of a trial.

Sentencing Childs, she said: “Nothing that this court can do can improve the situation for the family and friends of Mr Whitehead.

“He was riding his motorcycle and there’s nothing to suggest he was doing anything untoward.

“There’s nothing to suggest that his driving is to be faulted and had you paid sufficient care he would be alive now.”

However Judge Matthews said depriving Childs’ of her liberty and jailing her will not bring Mr Whitehead back.

She continued: “The sentences that are handed out for this kind of offence recognise that it was a ‘momentary lapse in concentration’.

“But the consequence of your momentary inattention was that a man lost his life and the family lost someone very dear to them. But I can’t correct that.

“It’s often thought sentences for this type of offence are inadequate but there has to be recognition that you did not intend any harm to Mr Whitehead. Nor were you dangerous in the manner of your driving.

“It was a moment which may have had no consequence at all but unfortunately on this day the consequence was devastating.

“You don’t need me to explain the harm you have done because I have no doubt you have relived that moment since August.”

She said her thoughts were with Mr Whitehead’s family after handing Childs a six-month community order, a curfew and a 12-month driving ban.

Childs, of Wolvershill Road, will be required to stay at her home address from 11pm-7am, a shorter time span than normal, so she can visit her mother who has a terminal illness.

She was also ordered to pay £85 costs and £60 victim surcharge.

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