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Horror accident driver sentenced

PUBLISHED: 13:21 24 October 2008 | UPDATED: 12:05 03 July 2010

AN 86-year-old driver who “should not have been behind the wheel” ploughed into three pedestrians, maiming one and contributing to the death of another.

AN 86-year-old driver who “should not have been behind the wheel” ploughed into three pedestrians, maiming one and contributing to the death of another.

Allan Skoyles was barely mobile at the time of the crash, having suffered a stroke and undergone eight heart bypass operations.

He had pulled up outside the Lowestoft Road Baptist Church in Gorleston when he accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake, mounting the pavement, a court heard yesterday..

His Ford Focus struck an elderly couple, Joyce and Arthur Willett, and 23-year-old Emma Woolnough who was walking to work.

Miss Woolnough has since had a leg amputated and Mrs Willett remains in hospital with serious hip injuries. Her husband died shortly after the crash - which his family believe led to his deterioration.

Sentencing him at Norwich Crown Court for dangerous driving, Judge Peter Jacobs said checks ought to be carried out on all motorists from the age of 75 to ensure they were still safe on the road.

He added: “No-one says this was deliberate or malicious but you should not have been in that car. It has been absolutely devastating for the woman who lost part of her leg.

“She has had limbs fitted and you have given her a life sentence. Someone else has subsequently died and another person is still in hospital.

“The problem is people out there are not going to say they are no longer fit to drive. People regard cars as essential.”

Speaking after the accident, Miss Woolnough said: “I heard the car coming and there was nowhere I could go. I tried to hold myself up against the wall but couldn't and fell down. I just remember looking at my foot and thinking 'Oh my God my foot has gone' because I could only see the white of the bone and blood everywhere.

“Obviously I was devastated because at the age of 23 you don't expect to be dealing with this sort of thing. It's frustrating because I'm used to going out and doing things and the smallest thing makes me tired.”

Outside court, Christine Carter, a friend of the Willetts, said the accident had wrecked the lives of the three victims and their loved ones.

She added: “Although the coroner ruled that the accident did not cause Arthur's death, we believe he would still be alive today if it had never happened. He just gave up afterwards.

“Joyce is still in hospital and will never be able to return home. She has lost her husband and her independence.

“He should have gone to prison, even if it was for a week to send out a message to other people.”

Nick Methold, prosecuting, said Skoyles, who is registered deaf, thought he had parked too far from the kerb so he went back to re-park.

“The only explanation is that he accelerated instead of hitting the brake and then probably panicked and went up the kerb,” Mr Methold said.

“The tragic result is, having had a series of operations, she has lost the lower part of her left leg and a wheelchair is now in regular use.”

Judge Jacobs sentenced Skoyles, of Victoria Road, Gorleston, to eight months in prison, suspended for a year. He fined him £2,000, ordered him to pay £250 costs and banned him from driving for three years.

He said: “This is a sentencing nightmare. This is absolutely devastating.”

In mitigation, Alan Wheetman said Skoyles had voluntarily handed his driving licence in and has not driven since the accident. “He is deeply sorry for what occurred and he feels for the victims,” he added.

When he left court, Skoyles said: “I think I've upset enough people.”

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