By Gwyn Wright
A DRIVER aged 81 from Stalybridge mowed down and killed a mother of three after he failed to fully de-ice his windscreen when it became frozen over in sub zero temperatures.
Retired mechanic Malcolm Dodd, of Ridge Hill Lane, did not spot Joanna Hallam crossing the street due to the frost blocking his vision and hit her with his Daihatsu Hi-Jet van without even braking.
Mrs Hallam, 40, who a ran dog walking business, suffered fatal head injuries in the impact and died two days later in hospital.
Inquiries revealed she had left her home to go to a shop after an argument with her partner and she had been in Darnton Road for 11 seconds before Dodd’s vehicle collided with her.
It also emerged Dodd had made a ”half-hearted and haphazard attempt” to clear his windscreen with a handheld scraper.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Dodd faced a charge of causing death by dangerous driving, but prosecutors accepted his plea of guilty to the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.
He was given nine months sentence jail suspended for two years and was banned from driving for 18 months.
The tragedy occurred on February 2, 2019 after Dodd went out an errand on his van.
Prosecutor Michael Maher said: ‘’At the start of his journey he failed to properly defrost his windscreen and was unable to keep a proper look out and sadly it cost this woman her life.
”Shortly before 11pm, the defendant was driving his van in Stalybridge for about a mile back to his address. It was around minus four degrees.
‘’Mrs Hallam emerged from a junction wearing dark clothing and stopped in the road. She started to make her way into the path of the defendant’s van which ran straight into her without slowing down or braking. At the moment she stopped in the road, the defendant was 147 metres away from her. She was in the road for 11 seconds before being driven into.
‘’When interviewed by police, the defendant said he had not seen her but the driver in the vehicle behind him said she had seen the victim walking from the other side of the road. That driver had expected to see her on the other side of the van, but the defendant collided with her. Her head impacted the van’s windscreen, and she came to the aid of the victim who had a catastrophic head injury.
‘’Emergency services were called at 10.45pm. Photographs show the scraper in the passenger seat of his van and heater-blowers worked but were not used to clear the windscreen. His wipers were still upright having not been used to clear ice from the screen.
‘’This was a half-hearted and haphazard attempt by the defendant to clear his windscreen with a handheld scraper. Clearing the screen properly is a basic necessity and his failure to do so meant he was effectively driving while squinting.
“The defendant said he was just driving along the road and slowing down to take a corner. He said he didn’t know what had happened and assumed she had run into him.
”Mrs Hallam’s partner said they had been married for more than 10 years and that they had a 10-year-old daughter together. They had moved to Stalybridge two years earlier and life was going well for the family. The evening she died they had an argument and she left the house.
‘’When interviewed by police the defendant accepted no responsibility for the tragic death. He said he cleared frost from the front windscreen and near the front window, that the driver’s window didn’t need cleaning and that the side heater was not in use.”
Mrs Hallam had two children from a previous relationship, a grandchild and a 10-year-old daughter with partner Lee Shilling who said in a statement: ”’Trying to put into words how this has affected me is very difficult. How can I explain the mixture of emotions we go through and how traumatic they are? Our lives have changed forever.
‘’My daughter has become introverted and not interested in doing anything. She holds her emotions in and gets so upset whenever her mother is mentioned. I turned to drink to help me get through the days and weeks after the accident.
”I lived off takeaways for ages and before I managed to pull myself together. I will have to bring my young daughter up on my own now and we will have to try and live with the consequences of this man’s actions for the rest of our lives.’’
Dodd will also have to complete 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days, put under a two-month curfew and ordered to pay £1,200 costs.
James Ageros, defending, said: ‘’The defendant is profoundly sorry and remorseful for driving in a way which led to this tragic death. He is at a loss as to why he did not see her before the impact and has speculated about that.
‘’Maybe he didn’t see her because of the erratic nature of her movements and the fact she was wearing dark clothes, but he makes no excuses for his behaviour.
‘’This is a man who did his driving test in 1960 and had been driving for 59 years. He has never been convicted of any driving offences or speeding points. He offered all the help he could.
‘’He was a joiner and then worked as a mechanic and is still interested in vintage cars. He does wish to drive again as it has been one of his life’s passions. It is a matter of deep shame and regret for him that he appears at court today.’’
Judge Tina Landale said: ‘’Your victim was a much-loved mother and partner, and I have heard of the devastation felt by her partner and child, which will go on forever.
‘’You were driving when you failed to properly clean your window screen of frost and ice. You failed to keep proper look out for pedestrians. This was such a basic failure on such a fundamental principle of the Highway Code.”