Torquay taxi driver told he may face jail after failing to stop after collision
A CAB driver has been told by a judge that he may face prison for failing to stop after the tragic accident in which DJ Barry Chilver died.
In an emotionally-charged courtroom driver Brian Carpenter, 49, wept as he gave evidence in front of 14 members of the 26-year-old victim's family and friends.
At Newton Abbot Magistrates court the family heard for the first time recordings of calls made by the driver to Torbay Taxis and the ambulance service after he had driven away from the scene of the 3am accident on an unlit road on the outskirts of Torquay last October.
The driver, of Third Avenue, had pleaded not guilty to failing to stop at the scene of an accident. He told the trial how he was driving down Marldon Road from the ring road. He said: "I saw a pair of faded blue jeans. I didn't feel I had any chance to brake or swerve without hitting him. I remember thinking 'Oh my God I've just hit somebody'."
Finding him guilty district judge Kevin Grey warned: "This is a serious case and a custodial sentence could be appropriate."
He said that Carpenter's standard of driving was not questioned. He said: "This is a tragic case, we all know that. Somebody died. It was clearly an unfortunate accident."
But he said that Carpenter's actions after the accident were 'just not good enough'. "The evidence is that Mr Carpenter remained in his vehicle," said Judge Grey.
" He didn't get out of it at all, at or very close to the scene.
"Mr Carpenter didn't get out of his vehicle to see if the person who he had hit was there, or what condition he was in. He left a body on the roadside that nobody could easily find."
He added: "It was the middle of the night on a country road, not knowing if there was any assistance that could be given, knowing that a body had to be found with difficulty, not even getting out of the car, is putting this offence at the high end of the scale in my opinion."
The case was adjourned until October 18 for full pre-sentence reports. The court heard that Carpenter has been having counselling since the accident.
Prosecutor Howard Phillips said: "He left the scene at an unlit road and it took the paramedic some time to find Mr Chilver. It would have been better to stay there with the lights on so that assistance could be rendered to the injured man."
Mr Phillips told how at just before 3am Carpenter was driving from Paignton towards the house of his friend Jacqui Nickels in Morgan Road, Shiphay, where he intended to leave his taxi overnight. He had been asking her if he could use her bathroom, because he needed the toilet. As he drove he was talking to her using his hands-free device.
When asked his immediate reaction after the collision, Carpenter said: "My immediate reaction? I just said something like 'Oh my God I've just hit somebody. Phone the police'."
In cross-examination he said: "It all seemed terribly quick. I saw a pair of faded blue jeans and then there's a collision. The phone wasn't in my hand, it was in the cradle. I threw the vehicle as far to the right as I could and thought I was going to go over the edge of the carriageway on the other side until the brakes cut in and stopped the vehicle. I knew I had hit him hard enough that he was in a serious condition. I hoped he wasn't, but I thought he was dead at the time."
He added: "Then I drove towards Jacqui's house to get her to assist me with the pedestrian. It was a short distance away. I stopped, wound down the window and said 'Please go up to find him' and told her where I thought I had the accident. I knew I wouldn't be able to do any first aid for the casualty."
He went into her house, used the toilet and phoned his employers.
When interviewed by police at the scene Carpenter said he was driving at around 40 miles an hour. His friend's house was something like 500 metres away from the scene.
The court heard a recording of his 999 call in which he says: "I just hit somebody in the middle of the road, just out of nowhere. I hit him really hard. I think he's..."
The 999 operator tells him to take a slow deep breath and he says: "The poor bloke."
Mr Simon Morgan, in mitigation, said Carpenter owns and runs six private hire vehicles.
He said: "Generally he is regarded as a Good Samaritan and was the first person nominated for an award to helping people with autistic spectrum disorders. He works with children with autistic difficulties and is treasurer of a youth club."