THE husband of Wrecclesham crash victim Amy Harris has expressed his “relief” after a van driver was handed a four-month jail term for causing the death of the mum-of-two by careless driving last September.
Oliver Lee, 40, a recovering drug addict from Guildford with 19 previous convictions to his name, was handed the immediate custodial sentence by Judge Robert Fraser at Guildford Crown Court watched by Amy’s husband Mark and close family.
Lee, a father-of-one, was also disqualified from driving for two years and two months, and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £115. He must serve at least half of his sentence in prison.
Speaking after the sentencing, Mark Harris told the Herald: “It is with relief that we can now bring a close to this particular chapter.
“Based upon the facts presented in court the judge imposed the upper end of the sentencing that was available under the guidelines, and while it cannot undo what has happened or lessen in any way the heartbreak and devastation brought to our family, we hope it will at least serve as a reminder to all drivers of the importance of driving with due care and attention at all times. It only takes a few seconds for lives to be destroyed.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Surrey Police Serious Collision Investigation unit for their work leading to a successful prosecution and their ongoing support throughout.”
Lee, who the court heard has been “clean” from drugs for two years and claims to have no memory of the moments before the collision, admitted causing death by careless driving at South West Surrey Magistrate’s Court in March.
The fatal crash occurred after Amy, 38, had just collected a client’s puppy from a house on the A325 in Wrecclesham and was walking on the pavement between the junctions of Echo Barn Lane and Quennells Hill at around 11.30am on September 19, when she was hit by a white Peugeot Boxer van, driven by Lee.
Leesha Whawell, prosecuting, said Lee was travelling northbound on the A325, down Wrecclesham Hill on his way to Homebase, when a driver travelling in the opposite direction saw his van crossing the central white line into her lane.
Lee then “over-corrected” and mounted the pavement, clipping a tree and lamppost before hitting Mrs Harris and the six-month-old golden retriever Cooper.
Miss Whawell added the Wrecclesham woman was dragged under the van for 30 metres before it came to a halt. Amy was declared dead at the scene after the police, ambulance service and an air ambulance attended the incident. Cooper also sustained fatal injuries.
The court heard Lee was travelling at 24mph in the 30mph zone at the time of the crash and tested negative for drugs at the road-side.
But Miss Whawell questioned the amount of time it took the van driver to react - commenting that 4.2 seconds elapsed between Lee being caught on the dashcam of another motorist travelling in the opposite direction and the point of impact, short of the average response time of between 1 and 1.5 seconds.
“That is more than momentary inattention,” the prosecutor told the court, adding it was only after the van hit a tree, lamppost and Mrs Harris that Lee took action.
Defending, Malcolm Galloway said Lee had been a drug addict for a number of years, but “had come a long way from where he had been” at the time of the incident and was living a “law-abiding and clean life” supporting his partner and 15-year-old daughter.
Warning that an immediate custodial sentence “would put all of that at jeopardy”, Mr Galloway continued: “He hasn’t just walked away from the incident - it is plain to his friends he feels guilt and considers himself personally responsible for what he did to another family.”
Describing the crash as a “mistake”, Mr Galloway added Lee’s own father-in-law was also killed in a car accident in 2016, and as a result he understands what Mrs Harris’s family is going through.
Sentencing Lee, Judge Fraser said he would take into consideration the van driver’s previous convictions, including another case of careless driving in 2007, as well as the fact Lee entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity and has expressed “considerable remorse”.
However, agreeing with Miss Whawell that Lee’s actions “cannot be a case of a moment of inattention”, the judge dismissed Mr Galloway’s calls to suspend the defendant’s sentence and handed Lee an immediate four-month jail term.
Judge Fraser told the defendant: “Your actions have robbed a young woman of her life, a husband of his wife and his two young children of their mother, and caused an irreparable and devastating loss - that is something they will have to learn to live with, and whatever sentence I hand down will not change that.”
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