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Family claims son let down by system

PUBLISHED: 07:16 26 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:26 03 March 2010

A DISTRAUGHT couple called last night for a change in the legal system after the driver of the car in which their son was killed received a "token" punishment.

A DISTRAUGHT couple called last night for a change in the legal system after the driver of the car in which their son was killed received a "token" punishment.

A road safety campaigner also branded the £200 fine given to the teenage driver who caused the fatal accident as "ludicrously lenient".

Gary and Janet Morgans, from Great Cornard, called for a change in sentencing policies to allow the courts to take into account where a case of careless driving ends in death.

The couple's son Ross, 18, died when a car driven by his friend Anthony Phipps, 19, of Humphrey Road, Sudbury, crashed on the B1115 at Chilton on September 24.

Mildenhall magistrates fined Phipps £200 - compared with a maximum penalty of £2,500 - endorsed his licence with eight penalty points and ordered him to pay £35 costs.

Speaking from their Beech Road home last night, Mr and Mrs Morgans said they did not wish to make any criticism of Phipps, but believed their son had been let down by the legal system.

Mr Morgans said: "This is a joke and a token penalty. There is no justice for our son. It makes me very bitter.

"The chairman of the bench warned the defendant that because of the facts of the case, the punishment would be towards the upper scale, but then a £200 fine was announced and no driving ban. I could be fined just as much for not having a television licence.

"Because the driver had passed his test only about six weeks before the crash, he will have to take the test again, but he could be back on the road within a matter of weeks.

"When a sentence like this is announced, I can understand why people sometimes feel like taking the law into their own hands."

Mrs Morgans added: "Because we feel justice has not been done, it does not help us with our grieving process.

"You have to accept there will be a court case and go through it, but you hope the successful conclusion will help you cope. We now feel we have been put back several stages in our grieving.

"We have no wish to make this a personal matter against Anthony Phipps and realise he will have to think about this for the rest of his life.

"But we feel this is sending out the wrong message to other drivers. We feel we should make our feelings known not just for our son, but for other families who will be hit by similar tragedy in the future.

"There should be a scale of penalties that take into account where a life is lost through careless driving."

Road safety campaigner Ian Tidy, who has called for a change in the law since the driver who caused the accident in which his daughter Ruth died was fined £120 for careless driving, said he felt the sentence trivialised Mr Morgans' death.

"I can understand that the person that caused the accident can also be a victim, but I think this is going to give the impression that this is not a serious matter and that is not true," he added.

"If he had gone out and stabbed someone at random, I am quite sure he would get a considerable custodial sentence, but because his weapon was a motor car and there was no malice aforethought, he is getting a ludicrously lenient sentence. It is just causing the driver a minor inconvenience. It trivialises the death."

Paul Forshaw, prosecuting, told the court yesterday Phipps had driven carelessly when he had attempted to drive round a bend and his Ford Escort car had swerved off the road and hit a tree.

An inquest into Mr Morgans' death heard the car had been travelling at a speed of between 35mph and 63mph, but the exact speed of the vehicle and the reason why it left the road remained unknown.

Helen Korfanty, mitigating, said Phipps had co-operated fully with the police and had shown remorse over the death of his friend.

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