Anger as death driver spared jail
The family of a three-year-old boy crushed to death by a near two-tonne runaway trailer have hit out at a judge after a delivery driver escaped prison for killing their son.
Freddie Hussey suffered fatal injuries when he was crushed against a wall as he and his mother Donna walked home from buying a birthday card for his grandfather.
Delivery driver Tony Davies, 38, who had failed to ensure the 1.7 tonne trailer was safely attached to his Land Rover Defender, today received 200 hours' community service at Bristol Crown Court and was banned from driving for six months.
In the courtroom Freddie's father Scott branded Judge Geoffrey Mercer QC's sentence a "f****** joke" and called Davies a "f****** twat".
Mrs Hussey agreed calling the sentence "disgusting, no justice at all" before shouting at Davies: "I hope you rot in hell. You are scum. He was a beautiful little boy."
The court heard how the tragedy happened on the morning of January 27 last year when the trailer came loose from Davies' Land Rover on Parson Street in Bedminster.
Prosecutor Anna Vigars said Freddie had been walking behind his mother, playing in the puddles and laughing and joking when the accident happened.
They had not long dropped off his eight-year-old brother Archie at Parson Street Primary School when the trailer - a portable cabin - detached, travelling around 10 or 12 car lengths before mounting the pavement and crushing the toddler against a wall and telegraph pole.
A passing lorry driver tried to resuscitate Freddie and paramedics arrived within minutes but the boy died shortly afterwards at Bristol Children's Hospital.
The court heard the tragedy has been attributed to a handbrake lever being in the wrong place, which caused the trailer to come adrift.
"During the course of the examination the police found the Land Rover and the trailer were in good condition, save for the handbrake handle," Mrs Vigars said.
"Had there been proper coupling there is no question of them coming apart."
CCTV footage was shown of Davies, who worked for Arthur Booy Transport in Bristol, hitching up the trailer to his Land Rover before setting off that day.
At a previous hearing Davies, of Berwick Lane, Hallen, Bristol, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving. He had denied the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving.
Adam Vaitilingam QC, defending, described the effect the tragedy has had upon Davies saying he was a "different person - a shell. He is very withdrawn".
"The consequence of the accident is too awful to contemplate but his culpability is at the lowest level it could be," he said.
"He has accepted responsibility for the death of this young child. It is not something he will be forgiven for but he will not forgive himself either."
Passing sentence Judge Mercer said the guidelines for causing death by careless driving focused upon the quality of the driving but this case centred upon the coupling of the trailer to the Land Rover.
"This terrible, tragic, heart rendering accident occurred on January 27 last year," he said.
"The trailer which your Land Rover was towing became detached from it after you had driven it for a distance of at least 12 miles.
"It travelled onto the pavement and struck and killed a greatly loved three-year-old boy Freddie Hussey, who was with his mother.
"The grief of his parents and those that knew and loved him, the loss to them is beyond words. His mother very bravely read out to the court her statement expressing the difficult circumstances and the effect of what happened has had upon them.
"No one who heard can be other than deeply moved by it.
"All other features of this case pale into insignificance. The terrible consequences of your carelessness are a factor to be taken into account in determining the sentence.
"But of course no sentence which this court can impose and adequately reflect the grief and loss of his family and it does not purport to do so.
"By your plea of guilty you accept your carelessness, as it was, caused his death and you will live with that burden for your life, I have no doubt.
"An innocent bystander at the scene of the tragedy heard you say 'I think I have killed a little boy' and describes your state of emotion at that time."
Judge Mercer said there was "no suggestion" that Davies was driving "anything but entirely properly".
"The carelessness lies between the coupling of the Land Rover and the trailer," he said.
"The offence is causing death by careless driving and not death by dangerous driving and in the context of this case it makes a very significant difference.
"It means that the problem with the coupling between the Land Rover and the trailer is not a danger that ought to have been obvious to a competent and careful driver.
"Had the danger been obvious to a careful and competent driver the offence would have been causing death by dangerous driving. It was not an obvious risk but a risk you accept you should have been alerted to.
"You failed to appreciate that there was or might be a problem that the coupling was not properly locked into place.
"Had you been alerted to that risk I am quite satisfied you would have not driven from that yard.
"In my considered judgement the level of carelessness on my assessment falls short of that which requires or justifies an immediate custodial sentence."
Davies, who has qualified as a HGV driver since Freddie's death, did not comment as he left court.
His solicitor Tim Hayden said afterwards: "Mr Davies would like me to say that this has been a tragic set of circumstances, which he has acknowledged all the way through and he has pleaded guilty as soon as the offence was put to him.
"He doesn't regard this outcome in any way something to be celebrated and his feelings all the way through have been for the family and the loss they have suffered.
"Ever since this accident, he has effectively been withdrawn and the shell of a man he once was previously and that will continue because the circumstances of this child's death have not altered as a result of the hearing that has taken place today.
"I can't say whether they are right to think (the sentence) is a joke or not because the judge outlined his reasoning and the basis he was required to sentence but I can understand why the family would feel that is a sentence that perhaps they weren't expecting or wishing for."
In a statement released afterwards, Mr and Mrs Hussey said: "It's very difficult to put into words how we feel about losing our beloved youngest son Freddie.
"Our son has been taken away from us, and we will never have the opportunity to see Freddie grow and have his own life.
"We've been left to pick up the pieces. Our family life has been shattered and we now have to try and continue with our lives knowing this tragedy could have been prevented.
"No sentence will ever reflect the enormous loss and devastation we as a family have suffered. We have to find a way to live with this, but we're relieved the court process is now over."