Drink-driver who killed crash victim's unborn baby gets community service

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The Independent Online

A drink-driver who crashed into the car of a pregnant woman who later lost her baby was yesterday sentenced to 120 hours community service.

Joseph Mercure, 56, a United States citizen working as a consultant for British Aerospace, was also disqualified by Northavon magistrates from driving for two years and had his licence endorsed for a second offence of careless driving. He had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Sharon Brooke, 19, was driving colleagues home in Bristol on 20 November 1999 when Mercure's car jumped a red light and crashed into hers. Ms Brooke, who was 36 weeks pregnant, was taken to hospital but a scan showed that her baby was dead.

When sentence was passed at the court in Yate, Gloucestershire, Ms Brooke cried: "I lost my baby, I cannot believe it. My son's life is worth 120 hours. Is that all they are trying to say?"

The court was told that Mercure, of Illinois, had spent the evening drinking with a colleague and was driving back to his hotel when the accident happened. Mercure had a reading of 105mg of alcohol in his blood, 25mg over the legal limit.

Andrew Ray, for the defence, said that his client was "greatly sorry" for the distress he had caused. He said: "By a hideous irony in this case, nobody could appreciate more than Mr Mercure the pain felt." He said that in 1988, Mercure lost his daughter when she was shot through the head during a robbery at a shop where she was working.

Ms Brooke, a restaurant supervisor of Kingswood, Bristol, is lobbying politicians for a change in the law to introduce stiffer sentences for drivers who kill unborn children. Under current law a child is not classed as a person until it has taken its first breath independent of its mother.

Outside the court, Ms Brooke's father, Geoffrey Brooke, said: "[Mercure] committed a crime but the law said he had not committed a crime. We need to change the law but we need people out there to help us." He said the family was campaigning for an unborn child to be considered a person after 24 weeks. The unborn baby's father, Stephen Sheridan, 26, said he felt the legal system had let them down.

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