Family’s Anger After Trucker’s Sentence Is Reduced

Cancer Patient Misses Vital Treatment And Left Fighting For Her Life After Horror Pile-Up

11.07.2011

The family of a cancer patient, who was so seriously injured in a road traffic collision that she was left fighting for her life and unable to undergo vital chemotherapy treatment, have spoken angrily after the lorry driver responsible for the crash had his jail sentence reduced.

Dawn Hill (51) from Tamworth had been en-route to Queen’s Hospital in Burton on Trent for cancer treatment but, after the car she was travelling in was involved in a horrific multiple pile-up, she was instead airlifted to Coventry Walsgrave Hospital’s intensive care unit with life threatening head injuries.

More than 18 months on from the crash, Dawn, who spent two weeks on life support, remains in a specialist brain injury rehabilitation unit where she is still recovering from her appalling injuries as well as continuing to battle breast cancer.

Now, a serious injuries legal expert at Irwin Mitchell solicitors has joined campaigners, including road safety charity BRAKE, by calling for sentencing guidelines for the offence of dangerous driving not resulting in death’ to be urgently reviewed.

The collision involving Dawn and husband, Leslie (54), happened at around midday on 3rd December 2009. Trucker, Nicholas Raynham (44), from Ipswich in Suffolk, ploughed through a line of stationary traffic on the A38 dual carriageway south of Burton-on-Trent after allegedly falling asleep at the wheel.

Raynham smashed into three cars before hitting Mr and Mrs Hill’s Nissan Micra, shunting their vehicle underneath the trailer of another lorry. He was originally jailed for 16 months on 20th December 2010 at Stafford Crown Court but following an appeal earlier this year, his sentence has now been reduced to 12 months.

Dawn sustained serious brain damage and since leaving hospital has been cared for at a specialist brain injury rehabilitation centre. She also suffered substantial internal and orthopaedic injuries. Dawn now relies upon a wheelchair and walking aids to get around, has significant difficulties with most of the basic tasks and continues to require a great deal of nursing care and therapy.

Tragically, just before the crash, Dawn had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was on her way to the hospital for treatment when the collision happened. Her injuries were so severe that her chemotherapy treatment could not take place and the disease progressed, resulting in her undergoing a mastectomy in June 2010.

The collision has also badly affected her husband, Leslie. He has struggled with the massive trauma of being involved in the crash and also witnessing the horrific injuries that Dawn sustained. He has since had to overcome his own injuries and also cope with Dawn’s ongoing health problems.

Hilary Wetherell, a serious injuries legal specialist with Irwin Mitchell, who is representing the Hill family, said: “This was an appalling crash which caused a six car pile up on one of the busiest stretches of road in the region. Raynham not only left a trail of devastation but his actions that day have had life changing consequences for innocent victims, Dawn and Leslie.

“The couple’s lives have been turned upside down as a result of this collision. Their family are extremely angry and feel it is adding insult to injury for the driver responsible to have his sentence reduced whilst they continue to live with the legacy of the damage he caused.

“Currently the maximum sentence for dangerous driving involving non fatal collisions is just two years which is automatically reduced by a third if the defendant pleads guilty. Now, road safety charity, BRAKE, backed by Karl Turner Labour Member of Parliament from Hull, are calling for this appallingly low sentence to be increased to a maximum of seven years and the family of Mrs Hill are wholeheartedly backing this call for the Government to change legislation so that justice for seriously injured victims of road traffic collisions is finally seen to be done.”

Commenting on behalf of the family, Dawn’s sister-in-law, Christine Day, from Kingstanding, Birmingham said: “We are furious as a family that the maximum sentence for dangerous driving remains at just two years. We were so grateful to the original judge at Stafford Crown Court because he gave the harshest sentence that he felt he could, but actually commented at the trial that the sentencing guidelines were wrong.

“To then find out that Raynham has appealed and had his sentence reduced just fills us with anger. We don’t understand the purpose behind these sentencing guidelines and why all of the emphasis is placed on the defendant.

Dawn has suffered the ‘life sentence’ that Raynham deserves, through no fault of her own. She has spent 15 months in hospital and the specialist rehab centre and has not been able to come back home in all this time. We don’t know what the future holds for her but at the moment it is likely that she will have to remain in specialist care for a long time to come.

“Dawn and Leslie are angry that justice has not been served. We feel it is wrong  that the driver had his sentence reduced; he not only stopped Dawn from receiving treatment for cancer that may well have made a substantial difference to her prognosis, but he also put many other lives at risk on the road that day.”