Driver, 81, who knocked down 92-year-old grandma in Bradford '˜shouldn't have been on the roads'

An 81-year-old driver whose poor eyesight meant he shouldn't have been on the roads has been given a suspended jail sentence for causing the death of a 92-year-old woman in Bradford city centre.

Godwin Street in Bradford (Google Maps)
Godwin Street in Bradford (Google Maps)

Geoffrey Sutcliffe, who learned to drive while doing his National Service, should have applied to renew his licence when he reached 70, but a mistake over his date of birth meant he was not required to make the application until he was nearly 80.

Bradford Crown Court heard today that Sutcliffe claimed on the form that he met the required eyesight standard without the need for glasses or corrective lenses and in September last year he told a Boots’ optometrist that he was not a driver.

Ten days later Sutcliffe, of Regency Court, Bradford, was driving along Godwin Street when he failed to see Baildon grandmother Lucille Abraham as she crossed the road mistakenly believing that she had the right of way.

Although another driver was able to brake in time to avoid a collision Sutcliffe’s car struck Mrs Abraham, who been shopping, and she died in hospital four days later.

Prosecutor Michael Smith said if Sutcliffe had told the optometrist he was a driver she would have said that his eyesight had failed the visual acuity test.

“The defendant suffers from cataracts in both eyes and it seems that the medical opinion here is that he should not undergo an operation on his right eye because effectively that’s the only eye that can see,” said Mr Smith.

After the collision, which happened at a speed of between 18mph and 22mph, Sutcliffe was asked to read a registration plate from the required 20 metres, but he could only do it from 9.9 metres.

Mr Smith submitted there was ample opportunity for Sutcliffe to see Mrs Abraham and brake before the collision.

In a police interview after the collision Sutcliffe maintained that he was 10 years younger than he was and he also claimed that at his age he was “fed up of laws and rules”.

Mr Smith referred to a victim impact statement from family of Mrs Abraham in which they said they felt like their mother had been taken away from them in circumstances which were avoidable.

“They feel angry because they have learned there was a deceit here that put the defendant on the road when he should not have been,” said Mr Smith.

Sutcliffe pleaded guilty to a charge of causing death by careless driving and the court heard that he had now surrendered his driving licence.

Barrister Ken Green, for Sutcliffe, said he had been driving for over 60 years without any previous offending and his client intended never to drive again.

“He will never forget that day and I am sure he will never forgive himself for that error that he made,” said Mr Green.

Married Sutcliffe walks with the aid of a stick and suffers from a number of medical conditions and Mr Green urged Judge Colin Burn to suspend the prison sentence.

The judge noted that both Sutcliffe and Mrs Abraham suffered from poor eyesight, but he added:”The difference between the two of you, tragically, was that Mrs Abraham was not behind the wheel of a tonne or so of metal. You were.

“It is obvious that you should not, with the benefit of hindsight, have been driving at all on that day.

“Your eyesight wasn’t up to it as a matter of objective fact.

“I accept of course entirely what you said in the course of your interview about rules and regulations, particularly as you were getting older. Some of them are irritating. Some of them are petty-fogging, but obviously the rule that you need to have good enough eyesight to control a motor car at any speed is a very good one and essential to prevent the sort of incident that occurred on the day in question.

“The misrepresentation you made about your eyesight was a contributory cause of this collision because you shouldn’t have been driving at all.”

Sutcliffe was sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for two years, and told he would have to take an extended driving test at the end of a two-year disqualification.