Killer taxi driver spared jail

Paul Knight, who has been convicted of death by careless driving,  outside Bolton Crown Court
Paul Knight, who has been convicted of death by careless driving, outside Bolton Crown Court

A WIGAN taxi driver who knocked down and killed a pensioner who ran out in front of him has avoided jail.

Paul Knight was driving his taxi through Bolton when he fatally injured 74-year-old grandmother of 10, Patricia Hodge, who had just been dropped off from a dance class at Atherton’s Formby Hall.

Yesterday, Knight, who had admitted causing her death by careless driving at a previous hearing, was at Bolton Crown Court sentenced to 18-month community order, six-month curfew, a three-year driving disqualification and must take a re-test when the ban ends. He had already been sacked by his employers.

The court was told that Mrs Hodge was crossing Wigan Road, Hunger Hill, on August 9, 2009, when she was hit by Knight’s Vauxhall Astra private hire vehicle at about 11pm.

She had stepped out from behind a car and then tried to run across the road. Unable to stop in time the car hit her and the impact threw her body into the air. She died at the scene from her injuries a short time later.

A police reconstruction showed that Knight could have been travelling at anywhere between 35 and 42mph when the speed limit was 40mph. However, in a police interview he admitted that he could have been driving at anything up to 45mph.

Judge Steven Everett said: “We will never know that if you had been driving at 39mph whether Mrs Hodge would have been alive today.

“That is something you have got to live with for the rest of your life.”

The judge added that had Knight been going at 39mph or less there would not have been any criminal charges brought at all.

The hearing had also been told that Knight would have seen Mrs Hodge just 2.1 seconds before impact and would have braked for between one and 1.5 seconds.

Father-of-five Knight was originally charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but that was reduced to careless driving after allegations that he had been earlier seen overtaking other moving cars in a dangerous fashion could not be proved.

When explaining why Knight did not qualify for a custodial sentence, Mr Fryman said: “Whatever sentence he gets will remind him of what he has done every day. “He has been punished in other ways. He has been signed off from work on incapacity benefit, he is partially deaf in both ears and partially blind in one eye and he suffers from depression, particularly after this incident.”

The judge said: “You should have anticipated Mrs Hodge’s presence and that is the carelessness you are charged with. I have to consider that Mrs Hodge did run in front of your car and for that she paid with her life.”

The court heard that Knight had already lost his job.However, Judge Steven Everett told the taxi driver he would not face jail.

Since the mother of three’s death, her family have been campaigning for better crossing facilities, reduced speed limits and traffic calming measures on the stretch of road.