Tractor driver banned after crash which killed dad of six
- Credit: Family
A tractor driver was banned from driving and sentenced to 200 hours unpaid work after a collision in which a father-of-six was killed.
Ben Johnson died at the scene in Wisbech Road, Outwell, on October 10, 2019.
John Harrison, 52, was emerging from a gateway to his property when Ben’s Astra collided with the front press attachment of his tractor, which extended forwards about 1.5m.
The front press ripped the roof off the Vauxhall Astra, a court heard.
At King’s Lynn magistrates’ court today (Thursday), Harrison pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.
Sentencing him, presiding magistrate John Hare said the bench had taken into account the defendant having no previous convictions, his clean driving licence and remorse.
“A prison sentence would serve no merit,” he said.
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Harrison was also ordered to pay £230 in costs and surcharge
Stacie Cossey, prosecuting, said the collision happened just after 9am. Mr Johnson was a front-seat passenger in the car being driven by family friend Emma Donger, whose 15-month-old son was in the back.
Miss Cossey said: “The nearside of the Astra collided with the front press. This resulted in the roof being torn off and, sadly, Ben Johnson was killed.”
She said a hedgerow was a part of visibility problems. Harrison used a mirror to view the road and he thought it was clear.
She said a police reconstruction estimated visibility to be 16 metres and a vehicle travelling at 60mph would have about one second to the point of impact.
Harrison told police in interview that the Astra must have been travelling at high speed.
Miss Cossey said: “He said he was still inching forwards and the front press was halfway between the verge and the centre line.
“He said he was heartbroken but did not feel he was careless.
“He felt the only thing he could have done differently was to use a banksman.”
Naomi North, mitigating, said her client disputed the distance of visibility and an expert report was close to being available.
She confirmed that Harrison had cut down the hedgerow soon after the incident.
Miss North said her client and his wife, who is a nurse and attended the scene, had both been badly affected by what happened.
She added: “It’s a tragic case and many lives have been destroyed by this. Mr Harrison’s concerns have been for the families involved.”
In a statement, Mr Johnson’s fiancée Ashleigh Tooley said he was an “amazing” dad and the day of the crash would stay with her forever.
She added: “I know that the gentleman did not set out to cause harm and there is no greater punishment for him than what he will be going through.
“I wish him no malice.”
Miss Donger said in a statement that the collision had had a profound effect on her and her son.
She said Mr Johnson had been helping her to pass her driving test – something she managed to achieve five months after the crash.
“I can no longer drive by where the accident happened,” she added.
After the collision Karen Murdoch, Ashleigh's godmother, set up a Just Giving page to raise money for the bereaved family.
Karen said at the time: "Ashleigh was sat at home with their daughter waiting for Daddy to come home and open her birthday presents, but it never happened.
"She was planning her wedding next year. Now she's planning a funeral."
Karen said: "In reality, people think about the immediate, but the actual reality of this is it's going to be long-term, having six children. They weren't well off, they lived hand to mouth. It really is just heart-breaking."
Karen added: "Finding yourself in a family, it's hard enough with the pair of you raising six children.
"We just can't put it into words. It's like it's not happening. Ben was all about his children. He had raised them from birth.
"We want to do the best for Ben. Wherever he is, we want him to know we're going to look after them."
The appeal, still visible on JustGiving, raised £13,242.
Karen said: "Ben was a lovely man, loving partner and more than anything - a wonderful loving father, who adored his children"