Driver, 90, spared jail for car death of couple

A 90-year-old driver who killed a couple when he reversed his car into them has been spared jail.

Philip Bull
Philip Bull

Retired textiles merchant Philip Bull mistakenly pressed the accelerator of his automatic transmission Ford Focus instead of the brake after he dropped off his infirm wife for a hospital appointment.

He lost control of the vehicle as it reversed in an arc and hit a metal bollard before it collided with Clare Haslam, 44, and Deborah Clifton, 49, who were both pronounced dead shortly after the incident at Withington Community Hospital on the afternoon of March 7.

Bull pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and was said to be “hugely remorseful”.

His barrister, Richard Vardon, had argued the circumstances of the tragic case were “exceptional” and could lead the judge to impose a suspended sentence.

For more than a decade the defendant had been the carer for his wife of 65 years, Audrey, 87, who had a number of health problems including Alzheimer’s disease, he said.

He said Mrs Bull could not be cared for at home without the defendant and she would have to be rehoused.

Imposing a two-year jail term, suspended for the same period, Judge Martin Walsh told the defendant: “After careful and considered reflection, I am satisfied that it is in the interests of justice for the sentence of imprisonment to be suspended, recognising as I do that this may be difficult to accept by some, if not all, of the family and friends of the deceased.

“In the light of their personal grief, such feelings may be understandable.

“This was, however, a piece of driving that occurred over a very short period of time.

“You made a genuine but catastrophic mistake.

“The consequences were unforeseen and completely unintended.

“I ask myself what would an immediate sentence of imprisonment achieve and whether immediate immediate imprisonment would be in the public interest?

“It will not serve as a deterrent to you or to others.

“It will not put right the harm that has been done.

“Whilst it would, of course, be a harsh punishment, the fact is that you will live for the rest of your life in the knowledge that your unintended actions on this occasion resulted in the deaths of two people. That is your burden to bear.”

Some family members gasped in the public gallery as the judge announced the sentence was to be suspended, with several leaving the courtroom.

After sentencing, one man in the public gallery shouted “the justice system is s***e”, while a woman told relatives of Mr Bull: “I hope your dad lives a long time to regret this. I hope he thinks about them every day.”