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Family of road death journalist hit out at sentence

A community sentence imposed on a lorry driver who caused the death of a former weekly editor has been slammed as a “kick in the teeth” by his family.

As reported earlier this week, lorry driver Anthony Rourke was given 120 hours community service after pleading guilty to causing the death of former Solihull News editor John Connor by careless driving.

John, 75, was killed instantly in the crash which occurred on the M4 in Berkshire as he was returning home from covering a car launch event in Spain.

Now the prominent motoring journalist’s family have condemned the sentence as a “kick in the teeth” and criticised the judge’s handling of the case.

Grandfather-of-three John, pictured above, died on 16 January, less than nine months after his wife Veronica lost a long battle with acute myeloid leukaemia.

His son Michael, who works as a solicitor in London, compared the community service order with the custodial sentences handed out to former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and others following the phone-hacking trial.

He told HTFP: “What we have is a bizarre system in the UK where you can go to prison for animal cruelty and you can go to prison for hacking people’s phones, yet when it comes to killing people on the roads we are still strangely reluctant to create viable and robust deterrents.

“If you are trying to send out a message to people, putting Andy Coulson in prison is going to deter no-one.

“However the number of people who we know will go out on the road who do not pay attention to the road conditions, or who look at their mobile phones, is a much wider category of people.

“Mr Rourke is going to spend 120 hours picking up litter in Yorkshire.  I didn’t necessarily want to stick him in prison for three years, but at the end of the day he’s killed my father and while he has to live with that on his conscience, we have to live without a beloved father and grandfather who was taken away from us within nine months of my mother’s death.”

Rourke, 55, of Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty last month to causing death by careless driving at a hearing at Reading Crown Court.

In a sentencing hearing this month, Judge Peter Ross said he had misjudged the speed of John’s vehicle on a dangerous stretch of road between junctions 5 and 4B of the M4 near Langley.

Mr Connor added:  “It was a badly handled case and we came out of it with a pretty poor result.

“No-one mentioned the fact that Mr Rourke was a professional lorry driver with a duty of care to other road users.  None of that appears to have weighed upon the judge’s mind.”

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  • July 26, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    All very terrible and this driver was clearly horribly careless but on a sliding scale what would be the right penalty? Some of us years ago had a sentencing exercise by visiting magistrates to our office. We differed a lot.
    What about this case? The 120 hours, six months’ prison, 18 months, six years, ten years, 15, life? It’s the old chestnut – ask 20 people and they’ll all have different opinions.

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