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Man sentenced for careless driving in fatal collision that killed 85-year-old woman

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A driver who got behind the wheel after taking cocaine, has been sentenced for a fatal collision that killed an 85-year-old woman.

Alistair Pole, 57, was driving his Audi A4 Quattro in Kilmersdon on 20 October 2019 when he pulled up at the junction of Church Street and Kilmersdon Hill.

Jenny Hovey had just attended a church service and began crossing the road when Pole began reversing and struck her. She suffered a severe brain injury and was taken to hospital by the ambulance service. Sadly, as a result of her injuries, she was declared dead the following day.

Police officers conducted a breathalyser test on Pole at the scene that proved negative but a drugs swipe was positive and he was subsequently arrested. Further tests revealed Pole had five times the legal limit of Benzoylecgonine in his system – a substance produced by the liver during the metabolism of cocaine. Cocaine was also found within his blood but this was below the legal limit.

A medical expert told jurors during a four-day trial in January the evidence indicated Pole had most likely taken cocaine within a four-hour period before driving and it would have impacted on Pole’s ability to drive safely.

‘Sad loss to us all’

Mrs Hovey’s son Richard said: “I find myself still upset that I was not able to be with her at the time of this road accident, neither to prevent it happening, nor to be with my mother as she lost consciousness to comfort her.

“I am indebted to those passers-by who did so.”

Mr Hovey said his mother, pictured above, was a valued member of the local church and volunteered for the National Trust.

He added: “I prematurely lost a mother who was 85 and lively, fit and active physically and mentally.

“My mother has been something of a focal point for the wider family and her home a place for us to meet together.

“She had two children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren and she is a sad loss to us all.”

Pole ‘single-handedly responsible’

Judge James Townsend sentenced Pole to 14 months in prison, suspended for two years at Taunton Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday 1 March) following a guilty verdict for one count of death by careless driving.

Pole, of Withywood Lane in Cranmore, was also disqualified from driving for two years and will need to pass an extended driving test before being allowed onto the road again. He was ordered to pay costs and victim surcharge, totalling £2,000.

Judge Townsend said he accepted Pole’s remorse was genuine and he had been of previous good character.

Addressing Pole, the judge said: “I have to sentence you for a tragic collision in which a fit elderly lady lost her life.

“A moment of carelessness by you added to cocaine caused the loss of that life; you chose to consume cocaine and it was a drug you had no familiarity with.

“This was a low-level collision, I am satisfied it can be described as momentary inattention.”

Officer in the case, Dai Nicholas, said: “Our thoughts remain with Mrs Hovey’s family, whose lives have been turned upside by what happened. More than two years may have passed since this tragedy, but understandably their substantial sense of loss following the death of much-loved family member remains undiminished.

“Anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car after taking drugs puts not only themselves but also innocent members of the public at risk.

“For the rest of his life Alistair Pole will have to face up to the fact he chose to drive after taking cocaine and is therefore single-handedly responsible for the fatal consequences of his actions.”