'Court barely mentioned my son's death': Christian Wolmar meets a mother angered by the way she was treated

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The Independent Online
SANDRA GREEN is still angry at the way she and her family were treated when her son Paul was killed in a motorway accident eight years ago. He was driving a small lorry on the M6 when a breakdown truck three vehicles ahead stopped suddenly. Although he managed to stop, he was crushed by another lorry carrying cement.

The driver of the breakdown van was charged with minor offences because his brakes were out of order and the lights had not been properly connected with the vehicle it was towing. He was fined pounds 250 and it took nine months for the case to get to court: 'The driver didn't even bother turning up for one hearing, which delayed it all. It didn't matter to him.'

Mrs Green says: 'In English law, they don't take into account the consequences of the crime. So this man was treated no differently because his bad driving killed my son than if he had just caused a bit of minor damage.' She points out that in Germany there is an offence of 'causing death by driving', rather than, as in this country, 'dangerous or reckless' driving.

She argues that the death should be treated as central to the whole matter, instead of being incidental. 'The fact that my son had been killed was barely mentioned in court. There must be some recognition of the consequences of the law-breaking that caused the death.'

She says that she had to fight to get any information from the authorities: 'As the relative of a crash victim, you have no rights at all. You weren't there, so you are not a witness, and so they are not interested in you.' Because she is a battler, Mrs Green managed to ensure that a senior police officer kept her informed, but 'I had to fight to get any information at all'.

She never received any counselling and was even denied the bereavement payment, currently worth pounds 7,500, since her son was over 18 and, therefore, was no longer legally a dependent. 'All families should get that payment,' she says.

She just can't get her words out quickly enough to explain how Paul's death has affected the family: 'My daughter's whole university career was changed by this. She never asked to be a single child, but now she is. Everything is different because of what happened to Paul. Going to your own child's funeral is the worst thing that can happen. Yet, to the authorities, it is all of no consequence.'

Overall, she feels there is enormous complacency about road deaths. 'In March, a senior police officer recently told me that there had been 30 road deaths in his area since January. If there had been 30 murders, there would be an outcry. But road deaths are just ignored.'