'There is no justice'

A DISTRAUGHT mother will never forget the moment she was trapped in a burning car after a crash which she barely survived.

Naomi Cassidy

A DISTRAUGHT mother will never forget the moment she was trapped in a burning car after a crash which she barely survived.

The accident destroyed Clare Scarfe's life but the one hope she clung to - that justice would prevail - has today been cruelly dashed.

Peter Austin, the driver of the car which caused the crash, got away with just a fine and a year's driving ban when he appeared at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court yesterday.

Mrs Scarfe, a nurse at Ipswich Hospital, has been in a wheelchair since the collision last October because of her severe leg injuries, and even faces losing part of her leg if a last-chance operation later this month does not succeed.

The 35-year-old from Vale Lane, Kersey, said: “I think it's disgusting. I am here with all my injuries and he gets away with a fine and driving ban. I do not think I will ever get over this. There is no justice whatsoever.”

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Her life has changed beyond recognition. She has had to endure several painful operations and plastic surgery procedures, she is unable to move herself around in a wheelchair due to a bad arm injury, and she has not been able to return to the job that she so dearly loves. She is also emotionally scarred as suffers flash backs, is scared to get into cars and cannot stand to be in the same room as fire. She has even been forced to rely on her husband Ashley, and children Ashley, 14, and Charlie,11, to help her with her everyday needs, like washing.

Mrs Scarfe said: “It is horrible. My children shouldn't have to do this stuff for me. I am a mother and a wife and he has taken that role away from me. It is just not fair.

“I have been like this since last October and he just gets a year's inconvenience. This happened to me through no fault of my own. I had just finished work and was on my way home.

“If the operation does not work, there is a chance the leg will have to be removed. I try not to think about that.”

Austin, 79, of Redhill Gate, Aldham, near Hadleigh, pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention and failing to stop at the scene. The court heard how the agricultural consultant had no recollection of the crash or walking away from the scene.

Mitigating, Hugh Rowland, said: “My client has professed profound sorrow. Whether he did not see the car or misjudged it, we will never know. He was clearly confused and disorientated.”

He was fined �500 for careless driving, �750 for failing to stop, and forced to pay �350 costs plus �15 victim surcharge. He was disqualified from driving for a year.

District Judge David Cooper said: “Whatever I do there is going to be a degree of dissatisfaction. I take into account that this was an error at the lower end of the scale which has had awful consequences. You do not strike me as the type of person who left a scene knowing the havoc that had been created.”

- Was the punishment fair? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

The crash:-

MRS Scarfe was driving from the direction of Ipswich on October 31 while Austin was coming from the other direction of Sudbury when the collision occurred.

Her car burst into flames, leaving her trapped inside. The Land Rover that she was in collision with, which was carrying gas canisters and could have blown up at any time, ended up on top of her car.

With badly injured arms and legs she was unable to pull herself from the wreckage and could only watch as the searing flames melted the dashboard which then dripped onto her wounded leg.

Fortunately passer-by Mandy Gavin from Ipswich braved the flames trying to drag her through the passenger door but when this failed she smashed the car windows with a golf club so she could pull Mrs Scarfe to safety.

Two others helped Mrs Gavin drag Mrs Scarfe just six feet clear before an explosion in her car which left the dashboard, gearstick and steering wheel incinerated.

When Mrs Scarfe was taken to Ipswich Hospital, where she works as a trauma and orthopedic nurse, she was found to have compound fractures to her left leg and arm and a broken heel.