Ashford driver Ronald David Lynch spared jail after pensioner Michael Donnelly killed in day trip horror crash
An Ashford man has escaped a jail sentence today after his car hit a pensioner after the pair had returned from a day out to Belgium.
The tragedy happened as driver Ronald David Lynch was leaving a car park in Beaver Lane after completing a Christmas shopping trip on a freezing December night.
Pensioner Michael Donnelly, 70, had been walking nearby when he was struck by the vehicle.
Michael Donnelly died after a crash in Ashford
But a judge at Canterbury Crown Court ruled there had been no evidence the driver had failed to clear his windscreen of ice or mist.
Judge James O'Mahony said: "The defendant was driving very slowly and he simply didn't see the unfortunate victim. It is a mystery how precisely it happened."
"If I sent Mr Lynch to prison for 10 years it would not bring back Mr Donnolly who was a loving family man..." - Judge James O'Mahony
In ordering Lynch to do 200 hours of unpaid work for the community, the judge said his powers of sentencing were restricted by law.
"I have no magic powers... sometimes I wish I had, but if I sent Mr Lynch to prison for 10 years it would not bring back Mr Donnolly who was a loving family man."
Prosecutor Paul Valder told the court how Lynch had driven out of the car park intending to turn right onto a main road and had been driving slowly.
He said: "However as he did so he collided with Mr Donnelly, who sustained injuries from which he died."
Lynch, 55, of Beaver Lane, had denied causing death by driving carelessly but was convicted by a jury.
The scene of the tragedy in Beaver Road, Ashford
Mr Valder told the court: "Had he been driving with the requisite care and attention the accident would not have happened."
The jury had heard how on December 1 last year Lynch, his wife and step son and Mr Donnelly had all been on an outing to the Christmas markets in Belgium.
"They had been picked up by coach in the early morning from the car park of the Marino's Fish Bar in Beaver Road, next door to the Beaver Inn."
The prosecutor said the coach party returned at 8.20pm and "on any view it was cold and below freezing, but it was dry and not slippery under foot".
Lynch, who had a good driving record, went to get his Vauxhall Cavalier, which was parked in the Beaver Inn car park as 6ft 5ins Mr Donnelly began walking.
Much-loved Michael Donnelly leaves three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren
An witness saw him carrying a white carrier bag and "at the same time saw the Cavalier emerging from the car park".
Mr Valder said Mr Donnelly was then seen to raise his hand in an attempt to get the attention of the driver of the Cavalier and also tapped on the bonnet
"The car stopped briefly but then pulled away, knocking Mr Donnelly to the ground and then partially over him," he added.
Lynch later told police when he returned to his car after the trip, it "was covered in ice" and so he started the engine.
He scraped both front and rear windows and then drove very slowly towards the exit of the car park, he said.
Tributes left at the scene of the crash by mourners
As he pulled away, he felt "the front of the car lift slightly... like driving over a bag of rubbish" and reversed "to remove the rubbish and then saw a man lying in the road".
Mr Donnelly, who ran the Railway Bell and Holly Bush pubs in Maidstone in the 1980s, died 12 days later in London's King's College Hospital.
Banning him from driving for 18 months, Judge O'Mahony said: "The one thing that is certain is the last thing on his mind that night was doing any harm to Mr Donnolly."
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