Family of careless driving victim Belinda Atha brand culprit's sentence 'disgusting'
THE family of a woman killed by a "careless" driver – who needlessly overtook another vehicle – have branded his two-year jail sentence "disgusting".
And it has been revealed that mother-of-two Belinda Atha, who was killed as she crossed Convamore Road, Grimsby, on February 17, had only a month earlier been given the all-clear following a long battle with breast cancer.
She was crossing the road near its junction with Eleanor Street with her best friend Joanne Loadman, at 10.50am as they made their way to Grimsby railway station.
Yesterday, Grimsby Crown Court heard 31-year-old Michael Coope, of Heneage Road, Grimsby, had pleaded guilty to causing her death by careless driving at an earlier hearing at Grimsby Magistrates' Court.
FREEVIEW SUMMER SPECIALView details
Have a brand new Freeview aerial fitted to your home for £79 and get a second point in any room of your choice - Conservatory/bedroom/kitchen/bathroom, it's your choice!
Terms: Second point must be to same property.
Contact: 01472 809951
Valid until: Tuesday, September 10 2013
However, defence barrister Adam Pearson, said Coope disputed claims by the prosecution relating to whether or not he had been speeding and his reasons for and manner of overtaking – which led to a trial of issue being held.
Following the two-day hearing, Recorder Tahir Khan QC dismissed many of his claims, banning him from driving for two years and telling him he would serve one year of his jail term in prison and spend the second on licence.
But Miss Atha's mother Jennifer, who was supported in court by her sisters Rita Burnett and Kathleen Hilman and brother-in-law Robert Hilman, said it was "not enough".
She said: "We all thought he would get five years at least. I would have been happy with five years.
"When I adopted her I felt as though I had been given a gift. Now I feel like it's been taken away.
"This has torn the family apart."
The court heard that on the day of the incident, the women – who had known each other for more than 12 years and were "like sisters" – had been on their way to Grimsby railway station to catch a train to Lincoln for a day out.
The "treat" came just one month after Miss Atha – who grew up in Cleethorpes and was a former Lindsey Comprehensive School pupil – was finally given the all-clear following a long battle with breast cancer.
However, Prosecutor Gordon Stables said that when the women had almost reached the pavement, Miss Atha was struck by Coope's blue BMW 318i – which he was driving at speed on the wrong side of the road.
Despite the best efforts of members of the public and medical workers, she was pronounced dead at Grimsby's Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital, at 3.15pm that day.
Recorder Khan QC rejected Coope's claim he had only performed the manoeuvre, as he believed the blue Mercedes 4x4 travelling in front of him, driven by Daniel Hewson, was turning left from Convamore Road on to Eleanor Street.
Coope had said he had been "close behind" the 4x4 as they moved away from the traffic lights and that he had "set off gradually" only accelerating to "get round" the slow moving vehicle, which he thought would soon be "out of the way".
He added that it was only as he realised that Mr Hewson was not turning left that he saw the women and that, by then, it was too late.
However, through numerous witnesses called by Mr Stables, the court heard there was nothing about Mr Hewson's driving to suggest he would be doing anything other than going straight on and that the manner of Coope's driving was "aggressive".
Mr Hewson also revealed that in the moments prior to the incident he had told Coope of his planned destination – Edward Street Children's Centre – after he called at his then-home on Wellington Street to purchase a car stereo.
He told the court he had "made a joke" that they would be heading to the same place, knowing Coope lived just one street away – and that turning left at the junction would have taken him "miles out of the way".
The court also heard that in the aftermath of the crash, although Coope had immediately taken full responsibility for what he had done, he had claimed he was doing no more than 30mph at the point of impact.
However, expert crash investigators, working on behalf of both the prosecution and defence, agreed that his speed was likely to have been no less than 37mph – and that he had not made any attempt to brake.
Recorder Khan said: "The evidence has established that you pulled out on to the wrong side of the carriageway and while you were on the wrong side, you were driving at 37mph, when you struck a pedestrian.
"Your manner of driving was near dangerous driving – an overtaking manoeuvre in a junction, at speed, not knowing what was coming the other way."
He added that in setting the level of sentence, he had taken into account that Coope was a "family man" of good character, with a history of depression and that he had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.