Killer motorist handed suspended sentence after father-of-five's death in collision
A killer motorist has avoided jail after his careless driving severed the leg of a father-of-five, leading to his death.
Luke Gutteridge admitted ploughing the Aprilia motorbike he was riding into Harbans Lal as the victim crossed Darlaston’s Wolverhampton Street almost a decade ago.
The 28-year-old was handed a three month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and a driving disqualification for 12 months at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Thursday.
Mr Lal’s family have had to fight for eight years to bring the case to court and spent more than £30,000 in legal fees in the process – and have now said they will appeal the sentencing.
Gutteridge initially denied causing death by careless driving but pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial on Monday.
Mr Lal was on his way home from Bull Street’s The Old Engine pub when he was struck by Gutteridge at about 9pm on December 27, 2010.
An inquest into Mr Lal’s death heard how he suffered shock following the loss of his leg and was pronounced dead after being taken by ambulance to Walsall Manor Hospital.
Initially Gutteridge was putting the burden of the crash onto Mr Lal, according to Mr Kevin Hegarty, prosecuting. Gutteridge said he was travelling at 35mph and that Mr Lal kept walking before running into the road so he could not be avoided.
But Mr Hegarty told Wolverhampton Crown Court: “Mr Gutteridge was driving at around 49mph in a 30mph zone.”
Gutteridge, of Curtin Drive, Moxley, had six points on his licence at the time of the crash, which came about after his ‘L’ plates fell off his motorbike, according to his defence.
Gutteridge, who suffers from a condition causing weakness in his hand and leg muscles, was charged with causing the widower’s death six-and-a-half years after the crash.
Mr Antonie Muller, defending Gutteridge, said his right arm was paralysed in the crash, and he is now a family man with two young children.
He added: “He did honestly believe he was doing 35mph but when he read all the evidence from the expert he pleaded guilty.
“The crown does concede they were responsible for part of the delay.”
In the years since the crash, Mr Lal’s family has been fighting for Gutteridge to be charged.
Originally the CPS and a judge said there was no case, before the Court of Appeal reversed the decision after the family’s appeal and Gutteridge was charged.
Mr Hegarty added: “It’s had a long history but it wouldn’t have reached this stage if it weren’t for the tenacity of his daughter.”
Judge James Burbidge QC said: “This case had a sorry and sad history that’s added to the trauma and suffering of all but especially the family. “I would like to pay credit to Mr Lal’s daughter for her persistence in pursuing this prosecution.”
Addressing Gutteridge he added: “You killed a much-loved man, a man with many years to live at the heart of a family.
Mr Lal’s daughter, Jasvinder Devi, said after the hearing that she will be appealing against the conviction.
She added: “I did not expect the last eight years of my life to involve going to courts.
“It makes me very angry that it’s taken eight years and then this guy has got a three month suspended sentence. I just can’t believe it.
“He blamed by father but now he’s admitted he’s guilty.”
Ms Devi said in her victim personal statement that Gutteridge made a personal injury claim against her father’s estate after the crash, which was the one of three claims he had made in two years.
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