Driver who knocked down schoolgirl spared jail

Court
Court

A MOT inspector who knocked down and seriously injured a teenage schoolgirl two years ago has been spared prison.

Andrew Robert Parkinson was told by a judge at Belfast Crown Court that sending him to prison would not be “proportionate or necessary for a momentary lapse of inattention’’ and ordered him to serve 240 hours community service.

Parkinson, 41, of Leven Close, east Belfast, pleaded guilty to a single charge of causing the teenager grievous bodily injury by careless driving.

Prosecuting barrister Peter Magill told the court that on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, the 17-year-old was on her way to school when the collision happened.

“As she reached the traffic lights outside KFC on the Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, the lights were out of commission,’’ explained Mr Magill.

“Road works were being carried out at the time and the road surface was in the middle of being replaced, multiple traffic cones were along the road and pavements, and the traffic lights were each in 45 gallon drums filled with concrete.

“As she reached the lights, there was a school patrol officer working at the crossing to assist school children.

“Seeing her approach, and recognising her, he walked out in the middle of the road, raising his sign and stopping traffic coming from both directions.’’

He told Judge Geoffrey Miller QC that at the same the defendant was travelling city-bound in the nearside lane in his BMW car with his wife and three young sons.

“As he approached the lights, he observed vehicles in the offside lane which were stationary. As he continued the teenager began to cross the road in front of him.

“It would appear that the defendant attempted to swerve, but the front nearside of his vehicle struck the injured party.

“This caused her to be thrown into the air and land headfirst onto the vehicle, striking the windscreen.

“As a result she suffered head and ankle injuries.’’

The court heard that passersby, who witnessed the collision which happened around 8.40am, rushed to her aid as she lay prostrate on the ground.

Mr Magill said: “They rendered her assistance and may well have saved her life. The most serious injury she sustained was to her head resulting in bleeding in the brain.”

The schoolgirl was rushed to hospital seriously injured but the following day she was put on the critical list.

“She has no memory of the accident but has and continues to suffer headaches as a result.’’

The judge was told that as a result of the crash, her education had been set back by at least a year and she was likely to have “long-term reduction in overall cognitive abilities as a result of her brain injury’’.

Mr Magill told the court: “She is also going to university all being well this September. She was going to study law but has now changed to do a different course.’’

He added that it was the prosecution case that it was a “momentary lapse of inattention’’ on the part of the Parkinson.

The court heard that during police interview the defendant said: “I was driving down and my two boys, who have austims, were kicking off a wee bit in the car.

“Driving down the inside lane then ... I think there were cars on the right hand side of me and then I seen the girl step out onto the road and I swerved to miss her.’’

Defence counsel Paddy Lyttle QC said Parkinson should have been driving slower; he could or should have seen her but said a white van on the outside lane may have “obscured’’ her from his vision.

“This is a decent, hard-working man looking after his family. He is deeply remorseful for what happened to the injured party.

“He works as an MOT inspector and he can’t be sure if he will lose his employment.’’

Judge Miller QC said that the collision was caused as a result of an “act of momentary inattention’’ by the defendant and there were no aggravating features in the case that would warrant an immediate custody sentence.

“I am satisfied, therefore, that the appropriate sentence to measure the level of culpability which is the test, and not the serious consequences to the injured party, is by way of a community service order of 240 hours.’’

Parkinson was also disqualified from driving for 12 months and is also required to resit his test, added the judge.