Suspended sentence for death crash pensioner

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Court told man who caused wife’s death in head-on collision near Hontion had no licence or insurance

A pensioner who killed his wife after losing control of his car on a notorious bend near Honiton has been given a suspended jail sentence.

Barry Woodhouse had never taken a driving test and was not allowed to drive but took over the wheel from his wife Jill as they headed home to Cornwall from a visit to Hampshire.

He had been driving for only a few minutes when he lost control and veered completely onto the wrong side of the road on a notorious right angle bend on the A35.

His wife was sat in the passenger seat when the Toyota Yaris crashed head on into a van going in the opposite direction. She suffered catastrophic injuries and later died in hospital.

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Woodhouse, aged 69, suffered a broken collar bone in the crash and his son David, aged 19, who was in the back seat, suffered minor injuries.

The crash was captured on the van's dashboard camera, which showed the Toyota heading onto the wrong side of the road for no apparent reason and crashing into the van.

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Its driver had barely a second's warning and suffered less serious injuries in the accident, which happened at lunchtime on July 27 last year.

Woodhouse, of Goonbarrow Walk, Bugle, admitted causing death by careless driving and while having no insurance or licence.

He was jailed for ten months, suspended for two years and banned from applying for a licence for two years by Recorder Martin Meeke, QC, at Exeter Crown Court on Thursday, May 30.

He told him: "You have never taken a driving test. There is more than a suspicion in this case that you have driven regularly, despite the absence of a driving licence or insurance.

"From your personal point of view, this case is tragic. It can never been seen as anything otherwise. It would serve neither you nor the public if I sent you to prison today."

Emily Pitts, prosecuting, said Woodhouse's wife Jill had been driving until shortly before the accident at Tower Hill, near Honiton, but they had swapped places and he had taken the wheel.

There was no explanation for him losing control of the car, which was travelling at just 28 mph, and he had no memory of what happened. He told police had been married for 23 years and was devastated by his wife's death.

Christopher Spencer, defending, said: "He is devastated at what happened and devastated that he was responsible for it. He finds it very, very difficult to cope with. They had been a couple for over 30 years.

"He struggles to cope with the knowledge he is responsible for her death but has no recollection of what happened. He had only been driving for about 30 minutes and should have been able to negotiate the bend."

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