Drink-drive nurse who killed teen cyclist in hit and run sentenced to five years four months in jail

Court hears that motorist stopped only to disentangle victim's bike from her car

by Simon_MacMichael   April 23, 2013  

Justice (Lonpicman, Wikimedia Commons)

A nurse who was two and a half times over the drink-driving limit when she hit and killed a teenage cyclist, stopping only to unsnarl his bicycle before continuing her journey to work at the same nursing home where the victim's mother was employed, has been jailed for five years four months.

Heather Butler, aged 67 and from Howden, East Yorkshire, had pleaded guilty at Hull Crown Court to causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink, failure to report an accident and failure to stop at the scene, reports the Hull Daily Mail.

The court heard how Butler, who was driving to the nursing home in Gilberdyke, hit 15-year-old Sam Brown and his friend, Luke Wheel, also aged 15, as they were cycling on the B1320 at Eastrington on 6 September 2012.

Sam, who was thrown onto the bonnet and windscreen of Butler’s car, suffered fatal head injuries, while Luke’s injuries include a broken shoulder.

However, Butler continued to drive for 200 metres before stopping only to remove the youngster’s bicycle, which had become tangled up with her car, before continuing her journey.

One driver, Nicholas Webb, who was in a car following Butler, said in a statement read out to the court that he believed she was either drunk or using a mobile phone due to the manner of her driving, and that he had turned round to go back to the scene of the crash.

"I did a U-turn and returned to the scene," he explained. "I spoke to Luke and was unaware of the second cyclist until I saw Sam Brown on grass.

"Other drivers stopped and there were attempts to revive him."

Despite their efforts, Luke would die of his injuries in hospital.

Butler informed colleagues when she arrived at work that she believed she had struck a cyclist. One said that she appeared unsteady and that alcohol could be smelt on her breath. Two members of staff immediately went to the scene where they found motorists trying in vain to give first aid to Sam.

Paul Genney, speaking on behalf of Butler, said: "She appreciates she should never have driven that night.

"She was in a state of shock and wanted to get to work to report what had happened.

"It is a particularly hazardous stretch of road. She would have had about two seconds to react.

"She hasn't driven since and doesn't even want to be a passenger in a vehicle after what happened."

Sentencing Butler, Judge Mark Bury said: “It was obvious to you, as it would have been obvious to any driver, that you had collided with Sam Brown.

“You drove for over 200 metres with his bicycle attached to your car and when you stopped some way up the road, you detached it and left it at the side of the road.

“You did not, as a nurse, go back to try to assist the person that you knew full well you had knocked down. As it turns out you would not have been able to assist.”

In a statement, Sam's mother Tracey Brown said that the family's grief meant had led them to consider moving home.

"Whatever the sentence, it won't be enough," she said. "For me, the pain is unbearable.

"There are days when I wish I wasn't here.

"Each passing day is harder.

"I cannot eat and I am finding it difficult to sleep."

The severity of the sentence is likely to be linked to the level of alcohol Butler had consumed and aggravating factors including her failure to stop and the fact that as well as the incident resulting in Sam’s death, it also caused serious injuries to Luke.

The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling report, published tomorrow, is expected to urge the government to get tougher on sentencing in cases in which cyclists are the victims, also the subject of a campaign launched last year by British Cycling and CTC, among others.

21 user comments

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better than nothing, but really she drank, she got into a car, she didn't intend to kill someone but she did, no different to manslaughter.

Why should drivers face different charges?

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posted by mrmo [861 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 11:47

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tsk dear oh dear, she'll be out in three years. Teh previous poster is correct. This is murder imo.

The slaughter goes on ...

posted by Karbon Kev [652 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 12:10

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This still feels quite lenient to me.

posted by benb [43 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 12:13

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The fact that she removed his bike from under her car, then continued on her way leaves me very cold.

It's up there with affectionless psychopathy- no regard that she's just killed another human being.

Insane behaviour and the juditial system didn't pick up on it.

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [84 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 12:42

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It's clearly not murder, and it's not manslaughter either; as should be clear from reading the criteria and guidelines for the prosecution for each.

It is, however, another shining example of how the relatively new "death by careless driving" charge repeatedly gets in the way of the toothier "dangerous" charge. The CPS seem pathologically incapable of bringing, or unwilling to bring, a dangerous charge in so many scenarios where the driving and related actions of the accused is patently dangerous - not just by any reasonable lay definition, but by the CPS's own guidance. Quite why this is the case is frankly beyond me, and also beyond plenty of other people who have a more thorough grasp of the law than I do.

Never mind the fact that describing the act of consuming four alcoholic drinks and then driving a car and killing one child and injuring another as "careless" is absurd in extremis and is demeaning to all involved.

Regardless of the jail term (do we have details of which charges garnered what sentences?), every other aspect of the prosecution process and legal definition continues to send out the message that death on the road through even the most abject ineptitude, incapacitation and irresponsibility is something that society continues to regard as neither horrific nor exceptional.

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posted by Bez [336 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 13:18

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Bez is right. I too do not understand the difference between careless and dangerous driving. It's like being careless with a gun. Careless IS dangerous surely regardless of what provisos and nuances you use to separate the two?

My sympathies to Luke's family. One life over at 15 and others wrecked.

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [933 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 13:35

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Sorry I meant Sam's family. At least Luke us still alive.

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [933 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 13:36

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Just as nurses are denying they lack care and compassion, this has to happen, a sheer disregard of all human feeling.

antonio

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posted by antonio [899 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 15:00

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I don't see any mention of a driving ban in the article. This woman should never be allowed behind the wheel of a vehicle again. I doubt if a lifetime ban was imposed.

Horrible, horrible case. Sympathies with the families of both kids and the young lad who lost his pal.

posted by Bhachgen [70 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 15:29

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http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/h_to_k/homicide_murder_and_manslaughter/#involuntary

to quote

Unlawful Act Manslaughter

This is where the killing is the result of:
the defendant's unlawful act (not omission);
where the unlawful act is one which all sober and reasonable people would realise would subject the victim to the risk of some physical harm resulting there from, albeit not serious harm R v Williams and Davis (1992) 2 All ER 183;
whether or not the defendant realised this.

The act need not be directed against a person (e.g. arson) - see R v Willoughby (2005) 1 WLR 1880.

The knowledge attributed to the sober and reasonable person is that which such a person would acquire as an observer of the whole course of the defendant's conduct throughout the unlawful act: R v Watson (1989) 2 All ER 865, R v Dawson (1985) 81 Cr App R 150, R v Carey and others (2006) EWCA Crim 17.

In manslaughter arising from an unlawful and dangerous act, the accused's state of mind is relevant only to establish that the act was committed intentionally and that it was an unlawful act.

Once these points are established the question whether the act was dangerous is to be judged not by the appellant's appreciation but that of the sober and reasonable man and it is impossible to impute the mistaken belief of the defendant that what he was doing was not dangerous: R v Ball 1989 CLR 730.

pretty clear the drivers actions can be caught in this, she drove after drinking, as any sober person would tell you a pissed person is a risk to those around them. Drink driving is an unlawful act. She would have known she had been drinking so intention is there.

But yes we pay lawyers/barristers/judges/politicians lots of money to sort these things for us, problem is they are also car drivers....

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posted by mrmo [861 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 15:41

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I have a notion that a manslaughter charge would get you a 12 year sentience of which you would have to serve at least six.

Why was she treated so leniently?

posted by Paul M [294 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 15:55

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She got in a car whilst over the drink drive limit then killed someone, to me that's murder pure and simple if you drink get the bus.

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [485 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 16:18

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antonio wrote:
Just as nurses are denying they lack care and compassion, this has to happen, a sheer disregard of all human feeling.

The lady's actions after the crash are consistent with her suffering from shock, which can make a person act irrationally and out of character.
She didn't have that excuse when she got in the car having drunk so much, though.

posted by arowland [70 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 16:35

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Simply awful for the victims and their families.
Simply appalling behavior by the driver. How the counsel could make excuses "she only had two seconds to react" - why? I can't believe, guess it is just mitigation (and poor at that) for an act she did not set out to commit, but things went horribly wrong, and compounded by the failure to stop at the scene.
This person should never be allowed a driving licence again, and possibly needs alcohol counselling which could be usefully done whilst in jail and able to focus and consider on what happened on the dreadful day.

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 18:28

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What has this terrible accident got to do with nurses denying care and compassion? The profession of the driver is a red herring,she was under the influence of alcohol which impaired her ability to drive!

posted by onlyonediane [158 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 22:31

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I'm going to write this for those people who are like my girlfriend, who find it hard to hear this stuff. This is a sad event and very avoidable.

Cycling is not the safest sport. If you want safe, drink pints and throw darts. But it is a healthy sport, a healthy and enjoyable activity, one that I love.

These reports, while enlightening to those that care about road usage and the troubles that do beset cyclists DO NOT represent those of the average cyclist. We're not being killed everyday by sadistic motorists and the risks of cycling are VASTLY outweighed by the benefits. Reading about these events is an exaggeration of the minority of what happens with cyclists. People commute everyday using bikes, people exercise everyday using bikes and people cycle everyday of their adult life without being killed.

These articles are about delivering justice for cyclists and ensuring that the justice system protects cyclists.

My deep felt sympathies for Luke and his family.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 23:28

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"She would have had about two seconds to react." - she was driving too quickly then.

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posted by djcritchley [141 posts]
24th April 2013 - 7:44

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A young person dead! Killed (no, MURDERED) by a self indulgent woman with no feeling or compassion for any other person but herself. She should have been inprisoned for a minimum of 20, years.

5, years if far too lenient a sentence.

posted by Mostyn [387 posts]
24th April 2013 - 8:34

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
I'm going to write this for those people who are like my girlfriend, who find it hard to hear this stuff. This is a sad event and very avoidable.

Cycling is not the safest sport. If you want safe, drink pints and throw darts. But it is a healthy sport, a healthy and enjoyable activity, one that I love.

These reports, while enlightening to those that care about road usage and the troubles that do beset cyclists DO NOT represent those of the average cyclist. We're not being killed everyday by sadistic motorists and the risks of cycling are VASTLY outweighed by the benefits. Reading about these events is an exaggeration of the minority of what happens with cyclists. People commute everyday using bikes, people exercise everyday using bikes and people cycle everyday of their adult life without being killed.

These articles are about delivering justice for cyclists and ensuring that the justice system protects cyclists.

My deep felt sympathies for Luke and his family.

A well balanced pint of view, and correct. Benefit versus risk is clear. Unfortunately the cases where something awful happens get reported. There's no news in reporting the millions of miles ridden and the long and generally healthy lives lived by anyone who exercises regularly. Enjoying the process on a bike, for instance!

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
24th April 2013 - 11:22

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Bez said :
" Regardless of the jail term (do we have details of which charges garnered what sentences?), every other aspect of the prosecution process and legal definition continues to send out the message that death on the road through even the most abject ineptitude, incapacitation and irresponsibility is something that society continues to regard as neither horrific nor exceptional."

When you consider that during the past 10 days , ALL reportage of the " Boston Marathon Outrage ", appears to concentrate on the health and circumstances of the surviving perpetrator , it should come as no surprise that the Media , cares nothing for ANY VICTIMS !

Only today CNN , showed WWPinc troopers , visiting those Hospitalised , total of 15 seconds ! Even a mention of the Boston Victims Fund , passing $20 Million , total of 10 seconds . Piers Morgan mentioned 41 still in Hospital with 17 of them Amputees , perhaps 20 seconds out of an hour long programme .

Piers demonstrated the lack of " Newsworthy Content " that Victims present .

The Victims HAD LIVES , not only them but THEIR Families and Friends are impacted by these Accident/Incidents . I for one , would like to know their BackStory ! Is that being " Nosy " or is it not normal to want to learn how their LIVES have been disrupted through on fault of their own ?

BIG DEAL , that money is being given , DO THE VICTIM'S want Money OR Their LIVES BACK ?

As for the " CPS " , the sooner that these people become part of the " REAL WORLD " , perhaps have the misfortune to lose " Loved Ones " , then , and only then will they treat Cyclists as vulnerable , and entitled to JUSTICE , when harmed !

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

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posted by skippy [372 posts]
24th April 2013 - 13:22

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What has this terrible accident

That was not an accident, accidents are completely unforseen random occurrences. This was a road traffic collision caused by someones error or omission.

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posted by Hamster [66 posts]
25th April 2013 - 20:26

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