Motorist who killed girl, 9 jailed for 28 days: Father attacks 'sick' sentence for driver

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The Independent Online
THE PARENTS of a nine-year- old girl killed on a pedestrian crossing yesterday condemned as 'sick' the 28-day prison sentence imposed on the driver of the car that ran her down.

Colin Vano, 33, a self-employed fruit-and-vegetable wholesaler, of Beckton, east London, walked free from the Old Bailey because he had already served time on remand. He was sentenced to one month's imprisonment, banned from driving for three years and fined pounds 800 for causing death by dangerous driving. He was found guilty earlier this month.

Nicky Lockley, who had won a battle against leukaemia in 1992, died outside her parents' pub in Romford, Essex, on 5 May last year while using the zebra crossing in Main Road with a friend.

Vano, who had a previous conviction for speeding on the same stretch of road, had told the court that, at the time, he had been distracted by thoughts of his new diet.

'There was nothing obstructing my view. I was just excited because the doctor had told me I could lose my weight,' he said. 'It was a lapse of concentration.' It was a dry and sunny day and he did not see Nicky on the crossing. He was travelling at only 27mph in his Ford Fiesta at the time.

Jeremy Dunne, for the prosection, told the court that Nicky had barely placed one foot on the crossing when she was hit. She suffered 'catastrophic' head injuries and died in hospital.

John Hamilton, for the defence, said that since the crash Vano had been under police protection and had been taking tranquillisers. 'His car tyres have been slashed and there have been people around his house. The police took it sufficiently seriously to offer protection and patrols.'

After the verdict Nicky's father, Michael Lockley, said: 'I was threatened with more than 28 days for not paying my poll tax. Twenty-eight days is an absolute disgrace. What's that compared to the life of our daughter? We've never had justice right from the moment she was run over. The only reason this went to court was because the coroner kicked up a fuss.'

He went on: 'The police wanted to press charges but the Crown Prosecution Service repeatedly tried to stop it from going to court. When it finally does get to court, and the judge says there is clear evidence of dangerous driving, he only gets a 28-day prison sentence. It's an absolute joke. I'm disgusted.'

Mr Lockley's wife, Karen, wept as sentence was passed. Later, she said: 'Their defence was saying that he has showed a lot of remorse and is very sorry. But in all the time since the accident he has never once tried to get in touch with us to see how we feel.'

Judge Alan Coltart said that he had passed a short sentence because he was working under Court of Appeal guidelines. He also said there were no 'aggravating features' - Vano had not been drinking before the accident, he was not speeding and he made no attempt to avoid detection.

'This was a momentary reckless error of judgement with tragic results. It is unfortunate you did not plead guilty. Her family have had to sit through the trial,' he said.

The judge added that, as a father, he understood the suffering felt by the girl's family. 'I would not be suprised if that family take the view that whatever sentence I pass will not be enough and I can understand that view. But that is not the way the courts work.'