Published: 17:00, 30 March 2017
A motorist whose tyres were wrongly inflated when he hit another car on a wet road has been cleared of causing death by careless driving.
Stuart Puttock was convicted of just careless driving - and fined £525 and given five penalty points on his licence.
A jury heard the 39-year-old’s tyres were either over-inflated or unevenly inflated on his Cherokee Jeep before the collision with Dicken Reynolds’ Ford Focus. He did not have a valid MOT certificate.
Mr Reynolds, 55, from Hadlow, was left trapped in his car and died in an ambulance soon afterwards from multiple injuries.
In passing sentence on Puttock, of Meadow Bank, Leigh, near Tonbridge, Judge Charles Macdonald QC said: “Respecting the verdict of the jury, I have to ignore that the driver died.”
The tragedy happened in London Road, Hildenborough, between Morleys roundabout and Mill Lane on September 16 last year.
Prosecutor Philip McGhee said after the collision Puttock told police he came off the roundabout heading towards Tonbridge.
“I touched the brake slightly. I felt the car begin to lose control. I spun across the road and hit the other car head on.
“Once the car began to lose control, I did what you should not do and performed an emergency stop. This was out of panic.”
While trapped in his car, Mr Reynolds was able to say he had a heart condition and was suffering chest and back pain. He also had Type 2 diabetes.
He had multiple rib fractures and a chest injury. He was pronounced dead from a heart attack at 9.09am.
Mr McGhee said Mr Reynolds’ car was found to be in good condition. Puttock’s 4x4 was also reasonably well maintained with no defects.
"Respecting the verdict of the jury, I have to ignore that the driver died" - Judge Charles Macdonald QC
“But its tyre pressures were higher than expected - higher than the pressure recommended by the manufacturer both front and rear,” Mr McGhee told Maidstone Crown Court. “They were unevenly inflated.”
Puttock, who had left work at Tesco in Sevenoaks at 7.15am that morning, said of the accident: “The next thing I know I am going horizontally across the road. I slammed on the brakes.”
He accepted he had not checked his tyre pressures. He did not know why he lost control of the car. He had driven “to the letter of the law”.
Mr McGhee said the road was wet from overnight rain but there was no obvious water on the carriageway.
“It is clear the collision was caused by the vehicle going out of control on a wet road with over-inflated and unevenly inflated tyres during acceleration,” he said.
“He seems to have acknowledged his actions as the car went out of control were an error of judgement.
“The prosecution say he departed from the standard of a careful and competent driver that morning. He doesn’t accept that.”
After the verdict, Mr McGhee said while the jury found Mr Reynolds’ death was not caused by careless driving, injuries resulted.
Peter Moss, defending, said: “Mr Puttock has to live with this for the rest of his life. He is remorseful for what happened. He stayed at the scene and helped.”
Judge Macdonald told Puttock: “You lost control of your Jeep while accelerating on a wet road with over-inflated and unevenly inflated tyres.
“The result was a collision with another car involving severe damage and personal injury to the driver.
“The absence of a valid MOT certificate is an aggravating feature. There is no mitigation. It is a case of momentary inattention with some aggravating features.”
Puttock was ordered to pay £840 prosecution costs.
Father-of-two Mr Reynolds was described by his family as “a loving dad, caring brother and generous friend”.
Members of his family indicated their disapproval at the verdict and disappointment about the sentence imposed.
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