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Judges decision receives backing

PUBLISHED: 17:10 30 October 2008 | UPDATED: 12:08 03 July 2010

BACKING THE SENTENCE: Emma Woolnough lost part of her leg when she was hit by a car driven by Allan Skoyles opposite the library in Gorleston earlier this year.

BACKING THE SENTENCE: Emma Woolnough lost part of her leg when she was hit by a car driven by Allan Skoyles opposite the library in Gorleston earlier this year.

A GORLESTON woman who lost part of a leg following a horrific car accident has backed a judge's decision to give the 86-year-old driver a suspended prison sentence.

A GORLESTON woman who lost part of a leg following a horrific car accident has backed a judge's decision to give the 86-year-old driver a suspended prison sentence.

Emma Woolnough was one of three pedestrians crushed under the wheels of Allan Skoyles' Ford Focus after he lost control of the car in Lowestoft Road, Gorleston in February.

The former Cliff Park High School pupil lost her left foot and shin following the accident and although she has since learned how to walk on an artificial leg, she has lost much of her confidence and can't go out without friends or family to support her.

Allan Skoyles, of Victoria Road, Gorleston, was given an eight-month suspended sentence, banned from driving for three years, fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £250 when he appeared at Norwich Crown Court on Thursday.

He admitted one count of dangerous driving which covered all three victims.

Emma, of Upper Cliff Road, believed the sentence, suspended for a year, was appropriate because it would deter other drivers in a similar position to Skoyles from getting behind the wheel if they were in poor health.

He had suffered a stroke, undergone eight heart bypass operations and was barely mobile at the time of the fateful journey when he collided with Emma and pensioners Arthur and Joyce Willett near Lowestoft Road Baptist Church.

She said: “I never really wanted him to go to prison anyway because of his age. Obviously in court, we found out about his failing health so I really don't think that prison would have been the best thing. I just wanted him to have his licence taken away.”

Emma, who attended court with her family, added: “I am angry he got behind the wheel. His family should have known really that he was not safe to drive.

“It is unbelievable how many health problems he had and yet he was still happy to get behind the wheel.

“All he was doing was re-parking his car. I appreciate it was an accident and I also appreciate it was awful for him knowing what he has done because it can't be undone. But I am angry he got behind the wheel knowing he could not drive.”

The court heard Skoyles had pulled up outside the church when he accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake, mounting the pavement.

His Ford Focus then struck the three pedestrians. Mrs Willett remains in hospital with serious hip injuries, while her husband died shortly after the crash -which his family believe led to his deterioration.

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, but hit the accelerator instead of the brake, panicked and mounted the pavement.

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.

Judge Jacobs told the hearing 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.”

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