Wigan OAP driver avoids prison after injuring four school pupils and a teacher

Keith Dootson
Keith Dootson

A Wigan pensioner whose car hit and injured four secondary school pupils and a teacher in the car park of a tourist attraction has been given a suspended jail term.


Keith Robert Dootson, now aged 77, was trying to free his Toyota Yaris from a parking space jam close to Sizergh Castle, near Kendal, as a large group of children walked past at lunchtime on July 17, 2017.

As Dootson hit the accelerator his wheels spun and gravel was sprayed “in all directions”, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

After the Kendal-based Kirkbie Kendal secondary school students were instructed to stop, his car engine was heard revving loudly before driving out “at speed and zig-zagging”.

Prosecutor Gerard Rogerson told how the vehicle hit four teenagers - two of whom were “thrown into the air” - and also struck 57-year-old teacher Adele Nicholl.

“The scene after the incident is described by witnesses as one of panic and distress,” said Mr Rogerson, who told how Dootson’s car came to a halt 135ft beyond the first collision point.

Ms Nicholl - the most seriously injured - suffered an open fracture dislocation of her left little finger, requiring plastic surgery and still visibly deformed; a fractured left ankle; and a knee ligament injury.

She was hospitalised and still suffered “flashbacks of the girls being thrown over the bonnet”.

One 13-year-old girl was detained in hospital having sustained swollen eyes, leg pain and a broken nose, for which she will have reconstruction surgery when she turns 18.

Three youngsters suffered cuts and bruising.

Former teacher Dootson, of Scot Lane, Aspull, told police he had caught the accelerator too hard and “panicked”, and had since expressed “genuine remorse” for conduct which was not deliberate.

His lawyer, Philip Holden, said: “He is extremely sorry and shocked at the injuries he caused.

“The irony is he was a teacher himself.

“He has had a hitherto unblemished record.

“He has led a good and proper industrious life.”

He admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving to Ms Nicholl. On Friday he was handed a 15-month jail term, suspended for two years, and a six-month night-time curfew.

Judge James Adkin heard Dootson hadn’t driven since the incident, having immediately surrendered a driving licence held for nearly 60 years.

Judge Adkin concluded: “It was a piece of bizarre, dangerous driving which caused serious injury to members of the public.”