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The eighty-five-year-old driver who killed my wife, Desreen, was jailed today for eighteen months for causing her death by dangerous driving. He was also banned from driving for life. I suspect he, his family and friends are feeling really quite dreadful right now, and, for what it’s worth, mine and I aren’t exactly celebrating either.

You see, I’ve had time to think since attending the trial and I’ve realised that you can punish a crime but you can’t transfer pain. Any suffering caused to the defendant as a result of his sentencing could in no way take away mine. I’ve since learned that, having suffered so much myself, I genuinely wish no hurt on any other person and I never wished a prison sentence on the driver, either.

In fact, I wasn’t even going to mention the sentencing on my blog at all. But then I reminded myself that justice for Desreen is best served not by a prison sentence but by trying to prevent similar unnecessary deaths from happening again in future. I keep hearing people say that they know someone who should probably give up driving but that they don’t know how to raise the issue with them. Well maybe I can help with that.

Tell them that the judge who sentenced the driver today said, ‘An elderly driver who knows, or should acknowledge, that he or she is losing his or her faculties is no less a danger than a drunken driver who knows the same.’

Tell them that the judge also explained that the defendant’s ‘lifetime of blameless driving is of no comfort to the Brooks-Dutton family,’ (and I assure you it really isn’t).

Tell them that the detective sergeant in charge of the prosecution said, ‘It is important for motorists to regularly monitor their driver behaviour and that of their elderly relatives to ensure that the roads are safe for all road users.’

Tell them that the once ‘blameless’ elderly driver suffered pedal confusion, which caused his car to be travelling at an average of fifty-four miles per hour in a twenty zone when he struck and killed my wife.

Tell them that the impact of this pedal confusion caused one of her shoes to fly off her feet as his speeding car hit her on the pavement where she was walking blamelessly with our then two-year-old son and me. Tell them that I had to keep looking at that shoe in the street on the night of her death and in photographs over the course of the subsequent trial.

Tell them that this is the last photo ever taken of my wife with our son together. Tell them that the paramedics on the scene later that evening had to cut off the jumper she is pictured wearing in order to be able to perform CPR on the pavement where she lay dying.

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Tell them that what happened was almost even more catastrophic and that the car that killed my wife almost killed our son too. Tell them that the collision investigator found a piece of the pushchair he is pictured in here in the street after the car skimmed it before mowing down his mother.

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Tell them that the day after my wife was killed my son was upset that he couldn’t find his scooter. Tell them that’s because his scooter was found in the wreckage too.

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Tell them that every time I look at my favourite picture of my wife and me together I get upset as I imagine how I lost the hat I am pictured wearing on the night of her death. Tell them that I’ve concluded that I must have inadvertently thrown it into the street as I pulled at my own hair through fear that she was going to die.

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Tell them they won’t be the only people who have to deal with the consequences of any potential injury or fatality that they might cause. Tell them the impact will be felt by more people than they can imagine including their own family and friends.

Tell them that the two-year-old boy who lost his mummy is now four and is still so angry and upset that she can’t come back. Tell them that he has suffered immeasurably from the trauma of that night. Show them this picture and tell them that this is him pictured with his beautiful mummy on his second birthday – the last one they would ever spend together.

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Tell them that at thirty-one years old I was the happiest man alive when I married the love of my life. Tell them that I was utterly bereft when I lost her at thirty-three. Tell them I’m thirty-five now and depressed. Tell them that I put a good face on but that the truth is that things haven’t really got much easier. Tell them from me how hard it is to be a bereaved single parent.

Tell them that once disaster strikes no wishing the tables could be turned will help. Tell them that wanting to switch places with the young person killed will make no difference to those who survive.

Tell them that you understand that they may want to stay mobile but remind them of what’s at risk.

Tell them any of these things you like; print this blog post off, email it on, share it online and let it speak for itself.

Tell me you’ll help prevent this happening again, though.

Just tell me that so that one day I can tell my son that his mother’s death wasn’t completely in vain.

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dangerous driving

My wife was killed twenty-five months ago today, and since that day, despite the fact that I have unashamedly spoken out about my grief, I have remained respectfully tight-lipped about what I believed to be its cause. Well, this afternoon an elderly gentlemen was charged with causing her death by dangerous driving. What follows is my statement and, with respect, it is all I wish to say on the matter for now. 

What happened on 10 November 2012 was no doubt a tragedy for all parties involved and no result from the subsequent trial could ever possibly have remedied the pain felt by its many victims. Between us all we have suffered the loss of family; physical and mental injury; the demise of health; the pain and confusion of grief; and the consequences, one would assume, of feelings of guilt.

However, I can only speak with absolutely confidence of the way my family and I have felt over the past two years.

The process and timescale of this trial, I believe, were lengthened and made more complex and painful by the sheer number of obstacles placed in the way of the prosecution. It is my personal view that this would have all been over sooner had such obstructions been avoided.

I, of course, have no doubt that the defendant suffered – and is indeed still suffering – as a consequence of his undoubtedly unanticipated actions. That said, in my view, and judging by the degree of decency with which I was raised, at no time have we – my family and I – been shown any true signs of remorse or consideration through the defendant’s approach to this trial.

Perhaps remorse will follow, perhaps it won’t. For now, though, my family’s priority is to move past the damage caused, and to continue to do everything we can to support one another.

We especially intend to do our utmost to minimise the anguish and confusion suffered by my little boy, a four-year-old child who lost his mother through an act of dangerous driving when he had only just turned two.

I can wholeheartedly say that I can forgive an accident that happened that night in November 2012. Right now, however, I’m finding it very difficult to imagine how I’ll ever forget the lengths that I believe have been taken to try to avoid this case being heard in a timely and appropriate fashion. A case that could perhaps (in my mind at least) have concluded so much sooner and with so much more compassion, had it been handled more sensitively and with even the slightest degree of contrition.

With that very sentiment in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many thousands of people who have indeed shown my family and me compassion, as well as sympathy, empathy and seemingly boundless support.

I don’t wish to spend the rest of my days shouldering the burden that can come with bitterness and anger. Instead I offer my heart to all of those who may be suffering in a similar way to my family, my friends and myself.

The final thing I wish to say is this: confusion killed my wife. The inability of an 83-year-old driver to distinguish the accelerator from the break of a car that he had been driving for over thirty years is the reason why my son will grow up without his mother.

Perhaps he had never had a motoring accident or incident before; perhaps his license was clean. But perhaps it is also time for us to question how fit certain individuals are to be on the road.

I appeal to anyone who might be concerned that it is time for their elderly or infirm friends or relatives to stop driving not to delay. I appeal to you all to do something about it before it’s too late. And when considering their potential risk on the road, it should not be about the manner with which they have generally operated a vehicle under low-stress conditions over a number of decades, but rather the response rates that they are likely to be able to apply when something actually goes wrong.

Perhaps they make you coffee when you asked for tea from time to time. Maybe they leave cat food out for the dog. Perhaps they have to run through half a dozen names before they finally land on yours. Maybe there are a number of so-called ‘senior moments’ that often evoke a smile.

Well I can tell you one thing for sure: it’s hard to smile when an 83-year-old man confuses an accelerator for a break and in doing so kills your 33-year-old wife.

The fact is the defendant had a clean driving licence at the time and with that came his right to drive. But evidently rights can sometimes cause wrongs. And sadly for my family this wrong can never, ever be put right.

For now I have nothing else to add. I just ask that my family and I are given a little space to try to recover from what we’ve been put through over the past two years.

Thank you all very much.

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