Shilton driver jailed after fatal hit-and-run

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A Shilton man who was driving while using his mobile phone and with a faulty headlight killed a man after he ploughed into him on a poorly-lit road.

Matthew Fury, 21, of Shilton Lane, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving and was jailed for two years by a judge at Warwick Crown Court.

The message has to go out that if people drive a car when it is defective and, more seriously, while using a mobile phone and kill someone, they must go to prison.

Judge Sylvia de Bertodano

The victim, Leonard Gaskin, was 39, and was jogging at the side of the Coventry Road when Fury hit him, killing him instantly.

Even though Fury must have known he had hit a person – because he later described him as wearing dark clothes – he drove off, leaving Mr Gaskin for dead at the side of the road.

Prosecutor Peter Arnold said that on April 7 last year Fury left a shop in Bulkington at 9.45pm and drove off in his BMW which had a defective offside headlight which had no dipped beam.

He must have known about it – because the car’s ‘quite sophisticated warning system’ had been flashing on the dashboard for at least 200km.

Despite that, he drove on dipped beam as he headed out of Bulkington on the Coventry Road, which had poor street lighting.

Mr Gaskin, who was jogging back to his home in Top Road, Barnacle, at the time, was wearing dark clothes, apart from white trainers, and was holding a small torch which was pointing forward as he ran on the nearside of the road.

Fury was doing no more than 42mph along the 50mph road when he hit Mr Gaskin, throwing him onto the bonnet and against the windscreen before he fell to the verge where he was declared dead at the scene.

The impact must have been substantial because people living nearby heard it, but Fury drove off.

But more seriously than the defective light, it later emerged that he had been on his mobile phone to his girlfriend at the time, holding it to his ear despite the car having Bluetooth.

When he was first questioned after being arrested at his home Fury, who told officers ‘He was in black,’ showing he knew he had hit someone, claimed he could not recall using his phone.

But some days later his solicitor went to the police and volunteered that Fury had been on his phone at the time.

Although analysis of his phone had not revealed anything, his girlfriend’s phone was given to the police and confirmed they had been, said Mr Arnold.

“The Crown’s case is that, distracted by that call and paying insufficient attention to the road, and the condition of his car, he drove being unable to see clearly what was ahead.”

Warren Bergson, defending, said, in relation to Fury having been on the phone: “My client told me, and I told him the consequences, and he insisted it was something which has so shaken him that he can’t live with himself and wants to tell the police.”

He said Fury, who has since moved to Minsterworth near Gloucester, and Mr Gaskin were both members of the travellers’ community, and knew each-other’s families.

He added: “He will carry the mark of Cain for the rest of his life. He is full of remorse, and his statement at the police station was a clear expression of remorse. Every single day he prays for Mr Gaskin.”

Jailing Fury, who was also disqualified for two years, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told him: “Mobile phones in cars are such a toxic combination. Most people, including you, have the opportunity to speak hands-free.

“No-one has an excuse for doing what everyone in this court sees, people holding a mobile phone to their ear and driving.

“You have proved why that sort of driving is completely unacceptable. As a result you collided with him, and you then made matters worse by driving away from the scene, although you must have known you had hit him.

“The man you were driving away from was a deeply-loved husband and father. I have read a heart-breaking statement from his wife of 17 years who describes the devastation his death has caused, in particular to their three boys to whom he was devoted.

“The one thing I do call in your favour is the fact that the evidence that puts you in this very serious position comes, at least in part, from you yourself.

“But I cannot possibly suspend the sentence. The message has to go out that if people drive a car when it is defective and, more seriously, while using a mobile phone and kill someone, they must go to prison.”