The mum of a teenage girl who died in a road crash is backing our Drive For Justice campaign to fight for tougher punishments for those who kill or seriously injure people on the roads.
Jade Pickering, 16, was a passenger in a car which collided with a coach, killing Jade and one of her friends. The driver was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving. He was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.
Jade’s mum Nicky today welcomed the campaign and news that the Government’s long-awaited public consultation may look at increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving.
Nicky, 41, who lives in Chorley, said: “We need tougher sentences to get the message across that one silly mistake can destroy lives forever.”
Recalling the fateful day, she added: “It was a typical Sunday. Jade had been for a sleepover at a friend’s house and came home about dinner time, changed into her pyjamas and told me she just wanted to chill.
“She had a college assignment so sat at the dining table to do it. Throughout the day, I kept hearing her mobile ringing and texts arriving.
“I heard her say: ‘No, I’m not coming out today, I’ve got college work to do.”
Around 3pm, Jade asked her mum if she could go to Blackpool.
Nicky, who is married to Danny and also has daughter Leah, now 19 and twin boys Adam and Liam, 10, says: “I asked her how she was planning to get there and she said there was a lad who had come on the scene who drove and was always offering her and her friends lifts.
“We then had a heated discussion about boy racers and college work being a priority but then Jade did agree with me and carried on with her work.” Later that evening, around 8:20pm, Nicky was washing up in the kitchen when Jade came and told her she was nipping to the shops and asked if she wanted anything.
Nicky remembers: “I gave Jade £3.50 and asked her to get me some dog food.
“Her last words to me were: ‘I won’t be long. Love you. See you in a bit.” Although the shop was only five minutes away, at first Nicky wasn’t too concerned when time flew by. She explains: “Jade was a popular girl so I assumed she’d bumped into friends and got chatting.”
However, when 9:45pm arrived, Nicky became concerned as Jade knew her curfew was 10pm when her dad was on an early shift.
“I called Jade’s mobile three times, but there was no answer.
“I went to look out of the front window expecting to see Jade standing talking to her friends.
“Instead, I noticed a policeman walking towards our front door.
“It felt like the world had stopped and I had no control of everything going on around me.
“The policeman told us Jade had been in a very serious accident and we needed to go with him.
“At this point, Jade hadn’t died but I knew then that I wouldn’t see her again.
“My whole life crumbled. It felt like my worst nightmare was happening.”
Nicky and Danny felt like they were in a daze as they were driven to the Royal Bolton Hospital in the police car. En route, they passed the crash scene and saw the ambulance, police cars and fire engines.
Nicky recalls: “Hearing and seeing all the sirens is something that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.
“As soon as you see all the carnage, your head spins even more.
“Just as we were coming off the motorway, the policeman got a call on his radio and put his blues on.
“Danny and I looked at each other and knew then our beautiful girl had gone.”
When they arrived at the hospital, the couple were taken to a side room. Nicky says: “I just remember hearing the doctor say: ‘We tried’ and I was hysterical. Danny fell to his knees on the floor.
“They then said we had to identify Jade. I knew I couldn’t do it. I could never see any of my children not breathing or in that state.
“It was down to Danny and I will always be thankful to him for that.
“Danny says all the way there he was praying: ‘Please have blonde hair’ as Jade was very dark and he wanted it to be a mistake and not her.
“But it was her. He said she was not ready to be seen so he was left with an awful image in his head.”
Losing their daughter crippled the couple with grief. They even contemplated ending it all and it was only the thought of their other three children that kept them going.
Nicky explains: “You feel such intense pain and we instantly wanted to go with her.
“Danny said to me: ‘Shall we run?’ and I knew exactly what he meant.
“As a parent, it is your worst nightmare. For it to actually happen is horrendous.
“We were totally different people when we came back from the hospital that night.
“Our other children didn’t just lose their sister that night, they lost the mum and dad they knew.
“The fact we had three other children was the only thing that kept us going.”
Nicky and Danny returned home where Nicky’s parents were hysterical at hearing about the tragedy.
Nicky’s twin boys were only two at the time, but she had to break the news to Leah who was only 11. Nicky recalls: “Leah was sleeping and I went up and just blurted it out. Looking back now, I think that wasn’t the right way. Leah was in total and utter shock. Even though there were five years between them, she was very close to Jade and they were like best friends.
“It affected all my children and we went through months of nightmares.
“The pain never goes away.
“People say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. It is constantly there.”
Nicky and Danny discovered Jade’s death happened after the 18-year-old driver turned up a no right turn and crashed into a 36 seater coach.
There was a telephone call made from his mobile phone to Jade’s phone one minute before impact. Jade was the front passenger and there were two other girls in the back. Jade died that night and her friend Tia died of her injuries the following morning.
Nicky says the family’s anguish at losing Jade was exacerbated by the ordeal of the court case.
She says: “The court case kept getting adjourned and it took two and a half years to get to court.
“All the way through, we had the same judge and barrister and they said they would point the jury to causing death by dangerous driving.
“But a week before the trial, we were told the judge and barrister had changed
“The trial turned into a CPS and police witch hunt and wasn’t about the two girls at all.
“There was an accident investigator but the judge dismissed all his evidence.
“The driver was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving. He pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving and was ordered to carry out 150 hours of community service. He was also banned from driving for two-and-a-half years - but because they took it from the day of the accident, he was free to drive from that day.
“The court case was awful and it made us feel like Jade was nothing and didn’t matter.
“Even though she was our daughter who mattered so much to us, to the courts and the judge, it was like she was nobody.
“‘The word ‘careless’ is horrible. It makes you feel like it is insignificant.”
Nicky firmly supports everything the Drive For Justice is lobbying for as she feels there is a desperate need for sentencing guidelines to change for drivers who kill on the roads.
She says: “The consequences are not bad enough to make people stop and think about their actions.
“Tougher sentences and punishments are needed to act as deterrents.
“People who actually kill on the roads are getting away with it.
“If you go out and kill someone intentionally, it is murder and if you kill someone unintentionally, it is manslaughter.
“The same should apply to death on the roads.
“I know this driver did not go out that night intending to kill Jade but his actions cost two girls their lives.
“He was in control of the car so he is responsible for what happened.
“The fact that he escaped with no prison sentence and can carry on with his life as normal makes me very angry.
“There needs to be a re-think of the whole issue.
“I thought someone would be punished for taking my baby away from me.”