Family bears death-crash driver no ill will

Newly qualified driver Lee Harrison, 23, from Sunderland.
Newly qualified driver Lee Harrison, 23, from Sunderland.
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THE family of a pensioner killed by a new driver as she crossed the road said the pair are “both victims” and they bear him “no ill will”.

Motorist Lee Harrison did not see 88-year-old Margaret Cowen as she crossed Stockton Road in Sunderland on her way to a church service last June and hit her with his car.

Spiritualist Mrs Cowen was treated at Sunderland Royal Hospital where she spent three weeks recovering from surgery for a fractured leg.

She was discharged from hospital on July 14 but collapsed and died at home five days later as a result of a blood clot caused by the fractures.

Harrison, of Azalea Terrace South, Ashbrooke, Sunderland, who passed his test just six weeks before the accident and had access to his stepfather’s car for just a fortnight, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how despite her painful injuries, Mrs Cowen had no animosity towards the 23-year-old motorist and even after her death her family have no ill-feeling towards him.

He expressed his “complete and utter remorse” to Mrs Cowen’s family at court yesterday.

Her daughter Sue Scott, 60, also speaking on behalf of her brothers Dave and John, said today: “We feel that it was an unfortunate set of circumstances and they are both victims.

“We didn’t want retribution. Making people pay, it doesn’t seem right to me at all.

“In our family we have people who are a similar age to Lee and we can identify with what he, and his family, are going through.

“That’s why we didn’t go to the trial, because it puts added pressure on the circumstances.

A statement from the Mrs Cowen’s family, who said she will always be in their hearts, was read at Harrison’s sentencing hearing yesterday.

It said: “Mam was the kind of person who always saw good in people.

“During discussions in hospital she showed no animosity or ill will towards Lee Harrison and we share the same sentiments.

“Our thoughts go to Lee and his family.”

Judge James Goss said Harrison, who has never been in trouble before, is a “decent, honest, hard-working, caring young man” who will live with the consequences of what he did for the rest of his life.

The judge added: “Nothing can be done to bring Margaret Cowen back to life or undo the circumstances in which her life ended.

“But it is noteworthy her family are deeply understanding and forgiving of the circumstances of the accident and it is a credit to them and to her.

“The view she expressed between the accident and her death was that they bear no ill will towards you for this tragic accident and its consequences.

“She was obviously an extremely kind and good woman who had, I am sure, a good life. It was tragic it came to an end the way it did.”

Harrison was sentenced to a community order for 12 months with 150 hours’ unpaid work, £250 costs and banned from driving for 12 months.

He has to pass another driving test before he can get back on the roads.

Judge Goss said: “You must have been distracted or not paying sufficient attention, probably as a result of you being an inexperienced driver, you having only recently passed your test.

“Everyone knows experience is vital for good and safe driving.”

The court heard Mrs Cowen had crossed the road while the lights were on green for traffic.

The court heard, despite her error, Harrison, who had not been drinking or driving at excessive speed, had sufficient time to see her and avoid her.

But prosecutor Emma Dowling told the court: “He just didn’t see her.”

Rachel Hedworth, defending, said: “He asks me to convey his complete and utter remorse to the family of Mrs Cowen and say he is devastated to have caused her loss.

“He is unable to put into any form of words just how sorry he is.”

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho