Father's agony over daughter's crash death

A COACH driver has been spared an immediate jail term for causing the death of a 22-year-old woman on a Suffolk road.

Tom Potter

A COACH driver has been spared an immediate jail term for causing the death of a 22-year-old woman on a Suffolk road.

Paul Marjoram, 43, had been at the wheel of a holiday coach when it collided with a Mitsubishi Warrior 4x4 pick-up truck, on the B1113 Bramford Road, at Great Blakenham, on the morning of August 3 last year.

The Mitsubishi driver was Abbie Pennell from Hadleigh who was trapped inside the wreckage and despite efforts by emergency services to save her she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Yesterday, Marjoram, of The Street, Occold, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court to be sentenced after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to causing death by careless driving.

He was sentenced to 24 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to pay �1,500 prosecution costs and undertake 300 hours unpaid community work. Marjoram was also disqualified from driving for two years.

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The court heard how Marjoram's coach, operated by Angus Coaches of Needham Market, had been on its way to the Peak District. Eighteen passengers, mainly elderly, were on board and more were due to be picked up in Needham Market.

Joanne Eley, prosecuting, said that Miss Pennell had been travelling towards the scene of the accident behind a skip lorry while Marjoram was driving in the opposite direction and needed to cross the path she was taking to continue his journey.

Examination of the coach tachograph revealed that it had slowed to about 15mph when Marjoram started to turn across the road and collided with the offside of Miss Pennell's vehicle which rolled over coming to rest on its side.

Marjoram had gone to see if he could help Miss Pennell. No-one on board the coach had been injured.

When interviewed afterwards, Marjoram told police that he had seen the skip lorry and another vehicle behind it. The skip lorry had turned off and for some reason he failed to see Miss Pennell's pick-up truck.

Witnesses had suggested that a large directional sign could have obscured the view at the junction where the accident happened, said Miss Eley, but a police investigation concluded there was ample time after the sign to see oncoming traffic. The sign has since been removed by the county council to maximise the view.

Matthew Gowen, mitigating, said it was a “devastatingly tragic case.” Marjoram, who he described as a thoroughly decent man, had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and was not seeking to make excuses for what had happened which would, as it would for Miss Pennell's family, live with him for ever.

“He knows he has taken a life and for a man like him that is unimaginable,” said Mr Gowen.

Sentencing Marjoram, Judge Roderick Newton said it had been a tragedy of two people both with blameless lives and futures ahead of them.

The family of Abbie Pennell said they were satisfied that Marjoram would be off the road for the next two years. Miss Pennell's father, Philip, added: “Six months ago Paul Marjoram made a mistake. It was not an error of judgement but a mistake. Six months on and we are learning to cope with the consequences of that mistake.

“We do feel that a mistake which caused such agony should not go unpunished. In an instant our lives changed and will never be the same. That mistake cost Abbie her life and took her from us.”