A lorry driver whose vehicle crushed and killed another motorist on the A27 near Polegate, has been jailed.
On 5 March 2015, Steven Copping was driving his Volvo V60 east when it was struck by a 41-tonne heavy goods vehicle, carrying scrap metal, travelling in the opposite direction.
The HGV, driven by David Hare, overturned and crushed the Volvo, instantly killing Mr Copping, 51, from Hildenborough, Tonbridge, Kent.
Hare, 55, from Ford in Salisbury, Wiltshire, was subsequently arrested and charged with causing death by dangerous driving.
He denied the offence, and the case went to trial on two separate occasions – firstly in September 2016 and again for retrial in June this year. On both occasions, the jury could not agree upon a verdict and a hung jury was declared. However, at the retrial Hare pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of causing death by driving without due care and attention.
The jury heard evidence from witnesses who recounted the horrific collision and the aftermath, describing how Hare loaded his lorry in Hailsham and travelled south on the A22, exceeding the speed limit (56mph on a dual carriageway restricted to 50mph for that class of vehicle). Having turned on to the A27 westbound, he accelerated, again exceeding the speed limit (55mph on a single carriageway restricted to 40mph for that class of vehicle at that time. At the time of the crash - March 2015 - the speed limit for HGVs on a single carriageway was 40mph. This changed to 50mph in April 2015).
Just prior to a bend, he failed to apply sufficient steering and lost control of his vehicle, causing it to leave the carriageway and overturn on to Mr Copping’s car, directly leading to his death.
The prosecution also presented evidence of mobile phone usage during his journey, which revealed that Hare had deleted his call history before his phone was seized by police.
The case was adjourned for sentencing at Lewes Crown Court on today (4 September), when Hare was jailed for 18 months and ordered to serve the remainder of his four-year disqualification upon his release.
His Honour Judge Anthony said, "No sentence a court can pass can compensate the family in question. This was quite clearly not a momentary lapse of inattention." He said that it was a prolonged period of careless driving and added: "We are responsible for our actions; all actions have consequences."
Hare's sentence was reduced for a guilty plea.
Sergeant Dan Pitcher of the East Sussex Roads Policing Unit, said, “Throughout the case the investigation team has examined mobile phone data, data from the vehicle’s tachograph and engine electronic control units. Our focus was to find out what caused or contributed to the collision and ultimately the tragic death of Steven Copping.
“In addition to this we have supported the family during the investigation and our thoughts are with them during this difficult time.
“This case is a stark reminder of how vulnerable we are as road users; Sussex Police will relentlessly pursue those who break the law, which in this case had devastating consequences.
“The main causes of serious or fatal crashes are the ‘fatal four’:
“In this case, Hare was travelling too fast, and while doing so he was distracted and lost control of his 41-tonne articulated lorry.”
Present in court throughout the trial was Mr Copping’s family. His wife Karen issued the following statement, “On that fateful day on 5 March 2015, Steve went happily off to work. We didn't for one second imagine that he would not be returning home to his loving family. Since that day we have suffered unimaginable pain through our loss.
“Steve was an amazing dad, and a loving and devoted husband. He was funny and friendly with a massive heart. He was loved by many and they have been a huge support to us always.
“I know that Mr Hare did not set out that morning to kill Steve but he did; through his actions we, as a family, are forever bereft.
“Nothing will bring Steve back home to us, but justice has taken its course and this gives us some solace. Our future will be marred by his absence and that will always be. He was taken from us so cruelly.
“As a family, we would like to thank our CPS prosecutor Mary Walford for her conduct of the prosecution; she has been thoroughly professional and respectful throughout.
“Sussex Police’s Roads Policing Unit officers have been amazing from the outset and have continued with their hard work and support ever since. Sergeant Dan Pitcher and his team are a credit to the police force, and should be commended for their hard work and compassion throughout the last few months.
“We would especially like to thank PC Dave Upjohn, our family liaison officer, for his continued support; as a family, we will always value his friendship.”