Driver who caused crash which killed two Northumberland war heroes keeps freedom

Jamie Lawson.Jamie Lawson.
Jamie Lawson.
A pick-up driver who caused a crash which killed two World War II veterans on a military museum trip from their care home has kept his freedom.

Jamie Lawson, now 22, lost control of his Wall Steed vehicle as he took a left-hand bend on the A697 and veered into a Dacia Duster carrying Pearl Smith, James Johnston and two carers, who were travelling in the opposite direction.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the group had been on a trip to the Land, Sea and Air Museum in Sunderland and were on their way back to their care home in Wooler on October 4 2019.

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The two 96-year-olds died as a result of the crash and the carers suffered "life changing" injuries, including broken and fractured bones, which will have "permanent repercussions".

The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.
The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.

Lawson's passenger, who was going through the selection process for the SAS, also suffered "life changing" injuries that cost him his job and have permanently changed his life.

Newcastle Crown Court heard from Mr Johnston's daughter, who said her father had been a pathfinder for the Normandy Landings, for which he was awarded France's highest honour, the Legion d'Honneur.

The decorated officer also served in Asia before he left the army in 1958 and he joined the MoD as a police officer.

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After his retirement in 1985 he dedicated time to his passion for running, and would regularly compete in marathons across the world when he was well into his 80s.

Mr Johnston had been due to take part in a D-Day parade in Sunderland, where he was going to be guest of honour.

Ms Smith was also a veteran, and served in the Woman's Auxiliary Air Force.

Lawson, of Aydon Crescent, Corbridge, admitted two charges of causing death by careless driving.

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The court heard the works vehicle he was driving had some underinflated tyres, which was unlikely to have caused him to lose control, but could have made it difficult to regain.

Judge Paul Sloan QC said while Lawson was not travelling at a grossly excessive speed, or over the limit, he was "in too much of a hurry" on the road.

He added Lawson's driving was not dangerous, but "fell below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver".

Judge Sloan told the court: "I stress, not for one moment did you intend the catastrophic consequences which ensued. What occurred was not intentional or even reckless in the legal sense, but it was careless.

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"There was an error of judgement on your part, rather than deliberate bad driving."

Lawson was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work and given a four-month curfew, from 7pm to 6am.

He was also banned from driving for 18 months.

Judge Sloan told Lawson: "Lives have been shattered as a result of your lack of care.

"No sentence I am permitted by law to impose upon you could even begin to ease the pain and suffering of the multiple surviving victims in this case.

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"You will have to live for the rest of your life in the knowledge of the devastation you have wreaked."

The court heard Lawson lost his own father in a motorcyle crash when he was young.

He has a good work record, had never been in trouble before and the judge accepted his remorse was genuine.

Richard Herrmann, mitigating, said Lawson was just 19 at the time of the crash and had passed his driving test at age 17.