86-year-old jailed for motorway U-turn that caused death of motorcyclist

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An 86-year-old man who caused the death of an ex-police motorcycle instructor by carrying out a U-turn on a motorway has been jailed for 18 months.

Leonard Pettifer, of Snargate Lane in Romney Marsh, drove on the wrong side of the M20 for two miles before colliding with a motorcycle being ridden by 60-year-old Michael Copleston.

The incident happened on the coastbound carriageway near Ashford, Kent, in the early hours of November 29 last year.

Mr Copleston, from Hawkinge, who worked as a chauffeur for the American embassy, suffered serious injuries and died at the scene.

A Kent Police spokesman said that Pettifer held a full driving licence at the time of the crash but failed an eyesight test shortly afterwards and his licence was subsequently revoked.

The spokesman added: "He said he made the manoeuvre after realising he took the wrong route home.

"CCTV footage showed Pettifer made no attempt to stop on the hard-shoulder, or exit via a slip road, and continued to drive in lane three."

He pleaded guilty to death by dangerous driving and was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court.

Investigating officer Derek Mole said: "Pettifer was completely unfit to drive and his actions sadly caused the death of a man.

"His decision has now led to an 18-month sentence and I hope that provides some small comfort to the family who lost a loved one.

"Motorists have to hold themselves to account. If you're unfit to drive, don't step behind the wheel."