Court says sorry to lorry driver wrongly sent to jail

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A Doncaster lorry driver who was jailed for clipping a railway barrier in Arksey with his truck should never have been sent to prison, senior judges said today.

Allan Arthur Ward, 56, of Emley Drive, Scawsby, admitted he was in a hurry and had not braked hard enough because there was a vehicle behind him.

The truck, laden with sand, struck the barrier and dislodged it, but did not cause damage and his truck did not reach the railway line.

Despite that, he was jailed for six months in March after admitting dangerous driving at Sheffield Crown Court.

Despite having already served his sentence, Ward today appealed, had his sentence overturned by top judges and won an apology from the Court of Appeal.

“It is quite impossible to say that this particular offence passed the custodial threshold - we don’t believe that it did,” said Sir Brian Leveson.

The court heard Ward was in a hurry due to pressure at work, but was not speeding when he approached the crossing in May last year.

The barrier was designed to dislodge when struck and did so, falling to the ground undamaged on impact.

Trains had to be stopped for a considerable period afterwards as Network Rail fixed the crossing, at a cost of £49,000 to the network.

Ward was sentenced on the basis that he had jumped the lights in a bid to get over the crossing before the barrier came down.

But Sir Brian said he was “surprised” at that, since Ward had stopped the vehicle before it even reached the tracks.

He was of previous good character and primary carer for his disabled adult daughter, for whom he acts as a driver.

“In the circumstances, the proper sentence could have been a community sentence or a substantial financial penalty,” he continued.

“As it is, he has now served the custodial sentence imposed upon him.

“We have come to the conclusion that the proper order is conditionally to discharge him for this offence.”

Sir Brian said Ward deserved an “apology” from the court because his case had taken seven months to be heard in an appeal against a six-month term.