20-month sentence for driver (18) after death crash

A teenager killed a grandfather and left two of his victim’s relatives disabled after causing a head-on collision when he lost control of his car.

Jack Hutchinson, a student who only passed his driving test eight months earlier, was driving in convoy with a friend when he took a bend too fast and went onto the wrong side of the road.

Lincoln Crown Court heard on Friday that Hutchinson collided head-on with an oncoming vehicle and as a result Terence Wheeler (68), the driver of the other vehicle lost his life. His wife Sylvia (62) suffered serious injuries which have left her disabled. The couple, who lived in Rothwell, Northamptonshire, had been married for 44 years. Their 14-year-old-granddaughter Kerry, who was in the rear seat, was also seriously injured and will suffer the effects of her injuries for the rest of her life.

The collision, on the A6121 Stamford Road at Toft, near Bourne, occurred just days before Mr Wheeler was due to undergo surgery for bowel cancer.

Mr Wheeler was driving towards Bourne. His son David and his daughter-in-law were driving separately in the car in front.

Stuart Lody, prosecuting, said: “As Mr Wheeler came into the bend, Jack Hutchinson was approaching the bend from the opposite direction.

“Hutchinson took the bend too fast and as a result of that there was a head-on collision.

“Mr Wheeler lost his life. His wife suffered serious injuries herself. Both of her ankles were broken and she remained in hospital for a period of nine weeks.

“Now she is partially disabled and is unable to walk for any distance. She needs a wheelchair if she goes shopping and is still in pain. She has also had to contend with the grief caused by the instant and traumatic loss of her husband.

“Kerry suffered particularly severe injuries. Her back was broken. She required surgery losing 70 per cent of her pancreas. There has been damage to her kidneys and other injuries. She remained in hospital for a considerable of time and is now disabled. Prior to this she was a sporty child who was very keen on ice-skating. She is no longer able to do that.”

Hutchinson, who is now 18, of Swallow Hill, Thurlby, admitted causing the death of Mr Wheeler by dangerous driving on May 22 last year. He was sent to a young offenders’ institution for 20 months and banned from driving for two years.

Judge Sean Morris told him: “This is a tragedy. With these kind of offences there are no winners. Nothing I can do today can mend what has happened.

“You made a fatal error of judgement. I am satisfied that inexperience caused this accident as well as silly youthful exhuberance.

“I have a public duty to perform in order to deter other young men in their hatchback cars. When they go out they must understand that they are driving a lethal weapon.”

Angela Rafferty, defending, said Hutchinson was full of remorse for what happened and accepted he was at fault.

She said: “On that day he didn’t set out to do anyone any harm at all. This was a catastrophic and dangerous error of judgement. He fully accepts that.”

She said Hutchinson, who has no previous convictions, was not a habitual bad driver and was only 17 at the time the collision occurred.

“After the collision he got out of his vehicle and despite having significant internal injuries he went over to the Wheeler’s car to try and assist. What he saw haunted him and haunts him still. He cannot get that out of his mind.

“He then collapsed because of his own injuries and was taken to hospital.

“He has since been paralysed by remorse. He wishes every day that he could change places with his victims. The apology he wishes to make is genuine and real.

“Up to this point he lived a completely blameless life. He was styudying for his A levels but that has finished and he has effectively dropped out of his course.

“He was a very accomplished footballer. Any hope of a professional career may have gone because of the injuries he suffered. The effect on his life has been devastating.”