Oakham coach driver jailed for killing motorcyclist is freed on appeal

Northampton Crown Court
Northampton Crown Court
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A coach driver who was jailed for killing a young motorcyclist will be freed from prison after top judges overturned his sentence.

John East, 67, of Brooke Road, Oakham, Rutland, admitted causing the death of Neil Watson by careless driving in October 2012.

Mr Watson, 23, from Corby, was on his way to work on his Honda 125 when East drove out in front of him, giving him no chance of avoiding a collision.

Mr East was jailed for 10 months at Northampton Crown Court in February, but will be freed today (Tuesday) after winning his sentence appeal in London.

Judge Melbourne Inman QC, sitting at the Court of Appeal, said Mr East was wrongly sentenced on the basis that he had driven straight out in front of Mr Watson without first stopping.

“This is a very tragic case,” said the judge.

“Mr Watson was only 23 years of age when he died. He had his life ahead of him and, of course, leaves loved ones who grieve for him.

“John East is 67 years of age and has a good driving record. He did not intend the tragedy which he caused and must live himself with its effect.

“No sentence of this court can give Neil back his life. No sentence should attempt to put a price on his life.”

The court heard Mr East was at the junction of Gretton Brook Road and Phoenix Parkway on the morning of October 3, 2012, with a group of students in his coach.

He stopped to check it was safe to enter the main road, but failed to see Mr Watson, who was approaching on his motorcycle.

The court heard Mr Watson had no chance of stopping. He died after colliding with the offside of the coach.

Sentencing, the crown court judge said the offence was aggravated by East having driven straight out into the main road. But his lawyers today argued before Judge Inman, Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Lewis that the original sentence was wrong.

The evidence pointed to him having stopped to look - and simply failed to see the bike.

Giving judgment, Judge Inman said the appropriate sentence was a community order with supervision and a requirement to attend a restorative justice course.

When told he would be freed, Mr East, who looked in an emotional state when he appeared via a video link from prison, said: “Thank you very much.”

The judge said he would be released later today.