January 12, 2021 5.33 pm This story is over 40 months old

Taxi driver jailed for causing death of “beautiful, selfless mum”

He was using his phone at the time of the crash

A 67-year-old man was jailed for two years and given a six-year driving ban after admitting offences that caused the death of Wendy Short and seriously injured her friend.

Ian Penman, of Nettleham, was the driver of a private hire vehicle involved in a crash between a lorry and a Seat car on the A46 between Doddington and Skellingthorpe roundabouts at 3.22pm on Tuesday, July 23 2019.

Wendy Short, 79, died at the scene and her friend and neighbour, Josephine Houghton, 71 and also from Lincoln, was taken to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham with very serious injuries. The injuries included 11 broken ribs and a fractured sternum and Mrs Houghton also had to have her spleen removed.

The subsequent police investigation found that Penman was using his mobile phone at the time of the collision, which he was holding to his left ear with his left hand.

It found that a call was accepted by Penman at 3.22pm and lasted 39 seconds, ending at 3.23pm. Tachograph evidence, from the DAF skip lorry, showed the time of the impact was 3.22pm and confirms the call was ongoing at the time the Seat collided with the lorry. It also showed the vehicle had been stationary for six seconds before the collision.

The court heard how Penman, a private hire licence holder, had collected the victim and her friend from a garden centre in South Hykeham and was travelling to the north of Lincoln. Both passengers were sat in the back of the car.

Penman was using his phone as he drove towards Skellingthorpe roundabout where traffic was queuing. He collided with the rear of a DAF skip lorry, fatally injuring Ms Short and injuring her friend and himself.

He pleaded guilty to the offences at Lincoln Crown Court on May 6 before sentencing recently took place via video link.

Andrew Scott, prosecuting, said: “Back in 2019 the defendant was employed as a taxi driver. On July 23, he was working in that capacity and at 3.15pm he drove to Pennell’s Garden Centre to collect Wendy Short and Josephine Houghton to take them home.

“Initially the journey home was uneventful. However, at some point as the taxi proceeded on the bypass the defendant received a call on his mobile phone. The defendant was on his phone as he continued to drive.

“Mrs Houghton noticed that he was taking a call. She mentioned this and as a result Wendy Short said ‘He’s on the phone. He shouldn’t be doing that’.

“He had the mobile phone in his left hand held up to his left ear. The next thing that happened was a big bang. The defendant drove straight into the back of a skip lorry.”

Other drivers went to assist and Mrs Houghton repeatedly told one witness: “He was on the phone. I told him to get off it because he wasn’t concentrating.”

Police were called and at the scene Penman told an officer: “My phone went and I automatically picked it up. The truck in front had stopped. It was my fault.”

Later when Penman was interviewed, he said he had little recollection of what happened.

Judge John Pini QC, passing sentence, told him: “On any view this is a deeply tragic case.

“This happened because at the time of the collision you were on your mobile phone.

“The evidence clearly shows you were using a hand-held mobile phone while driving thus degrading your awareness.

“This is the reason you failed to notice the change in speed of the skip lorry and was the cause of the collision.

“I would be failing in my public duty if I did not impose an immediate prison sentence.

“This case demonstrates, if proof were needed, the real dangers of using hand-held mobile phones. Here such use has killed one person and seriously injured another.”

Michael Cranmer-Brown, for Penman, told the court: “What happened was an absolute tragedy. The defendant is full of remorse. He is never going to drive again.”

He said that in the weeks leading up to the incident Penman had experienced “some very peculiar episodes” and following the collision has been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

“It is plain that he was already suffering from early onset dementia at the time this happened.”

Mr Cranmer-Brown urged that any jail sentence should be suspended and told the court that Penman’s condition subsequently resulted in him being admitted to hospital for six months before he was deemed well enough to be allowed home.

PC Godfrey Barlow, Forensic Collision Investigator at Lincolnshire Police, said: “Research has shown that a person’s driving will be worse when on the phone compared to when they are not.

“Drivers will spend less time looking at the road ahead, less attention is given to checking the rear view mirror, vehicle instruments or the road conditions when using either a hand held or hand free mobile phone.

“It is illegal to hold a mobile phone while driving or riding and hands free calls are still a real distraction. It is far safer not to use any mobile phone; divert calls to your voicemail facility.

“Drivers have a responsibility to callers not to answer the phone while they are driving. Let your voicemail take messages and listen to them when it is safe and lawful to do so.”

Family tribute

“Wendy Short will just be a name to you all reading this, but she was our beautiful, selfless mum. Our best friend, a wife to our late step father Bob, a mother-in-law and a grandmother too.

“My mum was the person we would go to for support and to talk things through, she always gave the best advice.  She was a counsellor to our friends who loved her dearly.  Words cannot describe how we feel no longer being able to speak to mum because she has been taken away from us.

“It is so very hard to believe that mum went out for lunch and shopping with her dear friend, as they did every week, and never returned.  This is our reality now.

“The driver admitted to being on his mobile phone and pleaded guilty to causing the death of mum by dangerous driving.  I ask you to remember her name, Wendy Short, if you think of using your phone when driving, remember her name and the pain and loss we will feel forever. Your call can wait.”

Josephine Houghton, in her statement, said: “Before this happened, I was very fit and was out and about every other day with my friends

“Now my son has had to give up his job to care for me. I count my blessings that I’ve got a family to support me.

“I’m a lot less mobile than I was before the collision. I can wash and dress but I need assistance with cooking. I have no immune system because my spleen has been removed. COVID is a big worry.”

*Lincolnshire Police said there was no photo available of the defendant