Man jailed for causing death of Hitcham pensioner by careless driving

Ipswich Crown Court
Ipswich Crown Court

A lorry driver, who caused the death of a Hitcham pensioner towards the end of last year, has been jailed for nine months.

Mark Tuffs, 51, of Alibon Road, Dagenham, appeared on Monday for his sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court.

Tuffs was arrested and charged following the death of 72-year-old Colin Taylor at Hitcham on November 29, 2016.

Stephen Rose, prosecuting, told the court Mr Taylor had been riding his electric bike when Tuffs’ DAF van struck him from the rear and propelled him into a roadside ditch.

The collision occurred on the B1115 while Tuffs was travelling between Stowmarket and Sudbury to make deliveries.

Mr Taylor was found by a member of the public and despite efforts to give first aid, he was declared dead at the scene by a paramedic.

The court heard that Tuffs, who later claimed not to have known he had collided with Mr Taylor, had reported the damage caused to the front of his van to his employer, saying he had struck an overhanging branch.

Mr Rose said CCTV images recorded in Stowmarket and shortly after the collision by a camera on a private house, together with debris found at the scene, confirmed the identity of the vehicle involved in the fatality.

Examination of the tachograph record from Tuffs’ van showed there had been “significant slowing down”, after what is believed to have been the accident, before Tuffs drove on.

All the evidence pointed to Tuffs, “simply not having seen” Mr Taylor, who was cycling ahead of him in the same direction, said Mr Rose.

Appearing for Tuffs, Marc Brown said: “It is quite possible he didn’t see him, or not until the last moment.

“He said his radio was on and there was noise in the cab, which may have explained why he didn’t hear striking Mr Taylor.”

Mr Brown said Tuffs, who had left the scene in a “blind panic”, was having difficulty accepting what he had done.

The court heard that Tuffs appeared to have been driving within the speed limit and was not using a mobile phone, although he did have two previous convictions for that offence.

Jailing him for 36 weeks, Judge David Goodin told Tuffs he believed that, immediately after the impact with Mr Taylor, Tuffs had realised there were no witnesses and had taken the decision to drive off.

Tuffs, who pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving at the start of what was to have been his trial, said there was “every reason” to believe that he knew he had struck Mr Taylor.

Judge Goodin said: “He was there to be seen, you didn’t see him, you hit him, he died.”

Tuffs was also disqualified from driving for 16 months.

Chief Inspector David Giles, Suffolk Police senior investigating officer, said: “Mark Tuffs knew he had struck Mr Taylor, yet failed as a bare minimum to stop and check he was okay, when he had, of course, been killed.

“Tuffs made no effort to report this to police, and it was only the tenacity of the investigation team that identified him as the driver.

“Having denied responsibility throughout the investigation, he ultimately pleaded guilty at the beginning of the trial, but even on that day, he still tried to deny responsibility by stating that it was him driving but that he hadn’t realised he had struck Mr Taylor.

“There was a Newton hearing where it was found this account was disbelieved, and the court accepted the guilty plea, but only on the basis that Tuffs knew exactly what he had done.

“For this reason, no reduction in sentence was awarded to Tuffs for his guilty plea, and he will go to prison for causing the death of Mr Taylor.

“I hope that this will afford some closure to his family.”