Driver banned over churchmen's deaths

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The Independent Online

A lorry driver has been cleared of dangerous driving over a horror crash in which three Church of England ministers died instantly.

A lorry driver has been cleared of dangerous driving over a horror crash in which three Church of England ministers died instantly.

But Mark King, 40, was found guilty of the lesser charge of careless driving, which the judge described as the "worst he had ever encountered".

Newcastle Crown Court heard how King's 38-tonne lorry ploughed into the churchmen, who were in a stationary car at road work traffic lights on the A1 near Felton, Northumberland.

Police investigators believe he had taken his eyes off the road for 40 seconds before slamming into the back of the black Rover saloon car. The car was crushed to half its normal size.

King, of Haughley, Stowmarket, Suffolk, had denied three charges of causing death by dangerous driving in the smash on May 27, 1999.

After the verdicts Judge Esmond Faulks told King: "This is the worst case of careless driving I have ever encountered or heard of.

"Driving down the A1 in a 38-tonne lorry for distances in excess of half-a-mile you were paying little or no attention.

"As a result you ploughed into a car killing three people instantly.

"It's a quite appalling piece of careless driving."

Newcastle Crown Court had heard the churchmen were close friends who had been out walking in Northumberland before heading back to their parishes on Tyneside.

The jury today took just over 90 minutes to find him not guilty of the offences but convict him of careless driving.

The divorced father-of-two was fined £3,000 and banned from driving for three years.