‘Death driver is also a victim’

Emma Van Spyk with a self-portrait of her son John, who died when his motorbike was involved in a crash last year.
Emma Van Spyk with a self-portrait of her son John, who died when his motorbike was involved in a crash last year.

A GRIEVING mother has pleaded with the courts not to jail the driver of the car that killed her son in a collision.

Donington mum Emma Van Spyk’s son Jean-Baptiste died last November when his red Honda motorbike was involved in a crash as he returned home from Sleaford Joint Sixth Form.

Jean-Baptiste, known as John to family and friends, was 18 and studying for his A-Levels.

The car that hit him, in Mareham Lane at Scredington, was being driven by Sleaford 21-year-old Ben Burrows, who appeared at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on Monday charged with causing death by careless driving.

He pleaded guilty to the charge and his case will be sent to Lincoln Crown Court for sentencing at a later date.

Ben had been overtaking at the time and the court heard there was no suggestion he was speeding, but simply did not see the lights of John’s bike.

Emma attended the hearing and handed a statement over to the magistrates in a bid to convince them not to send him to prison.

The statement said: “The circumstances that lead to my son’s death have been laid out in court today, and it is clear that Ben’s behaviour and the manner of his driving have caused John’s death. However, as a family we bare Ben no ill will since he is also a victim of this tragedy.”

The statement went on to call for much longer driving bans instead to solve the county’s high death rate on the roads.

Speaking afterwards Emma, who has five other children and lives in Wykes Lane, explained why she felt the need to speak out.

She said Ben’s driving had been careless, but no worse than what she sees every day when travelling on Lincolnshire’s roads.

Emma said: “For his sake and my son’s sake they were incredibly unlucky. We have got to get away from criminalising people like Ben – he’s as much of a victim.”

Emma is now urging Lincolnshire County Council bosses to improve the public transport network and help youngsters get off the roads.

She said John had a car but could not afford to insure it so rode a bike which she was “always very nervous about”.

She added: “Whilst focusing on blame we are forgetting the bigger issue which I think is very important – the fact there is very inadequate public transport and no-one wants to take responsibility for that.

“Everybody is talking about cost but there’s money for other things. Maybe we just need to be prioritising the safety of our young ones.

“Nothing is going to bring my son back and this has had a devastating effect on us but I don’t want his death to have been completely useless.

“Hopefully bringing up the issues can make even a small amount of difference to people in a position of authority.

“If it saves other people the same trauma then speaking now, even though I don’t want to, has got to be worth it.”

John Siddle, communications manager at the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership, went to Monday’s court hearing.

He said: “Emma was very concerned for Ben’s wellbeing and said she would like to speak to the family.

“They went into a private room and spoke for a few moments and probably laid some ghosts to rest – it was a very moving moment.

“In our work we often see people who want revenge and feel a lot of anger – or you have people who are very quiet and say very little.

“Very rarely do we have someone like Emma who has come along and is so totally forgiving.”

Meanwhile, the county council’s head of transportation, Chris Briggs, said: “We know how important transport links are, particularly in our rural county, and strive to fund as many services as possible. This includes hundreds of local bus services, our CallConnect buses and our Wheels to Work project, as well as post-16 transport schemes.

“However, with such a huge county, it’s simply not realistic to cover absolutely everywhere, particularly where students have freedom of choice regarding their education establishment.

“Transport services have had to take their share of the much-publicised budget reductions, too.”