Relatives vent anger as driver, 90, is spared jail over accident that killed two

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The family of a woman killed by a 90-year-old motorist who mistakenly pressed the accelerator pedal instead of the brake say they have not had justice after he was spared jail.

Deborah Clifton, 49, and her partner Clare Haslam, 44, were crushed by an automatic transmission Ford Focus driven by retired textiles merchant Philip Bull and died from the catastrophic injuries.

Sentencing Bull, from Wythenshawe, to a suspended sentence at Manchester Crown Court, Judge Martin Walsh ruled it would not be in the public interest to send him to immediate custody.

He said: "It will not serve as a deterrent to you or to others. It will not put right the harm that has been done.

"Whilst it would, of course, be a harsh punishment, the fact is that you will live for the rest of your life in the knowledge that your unintended actions on this occasion resulted in the deaths of two people. That is your burden to bear."

Clare Haslam, 44, and Deborah Clifton, 49
Clare Haslam, 44, and Deborah Clifton, 49, were killed when Philip Bull accidentally reversed his car into them (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

Bull's barrister Richard Vardon, had argued the circumstances of the tragic case were "exceptional" but the collision on March 7 outside Withington Community Hospital had nothing to do with the age of his client who had no medical problems at the time.

For more than a decade the defendant had been the carer for his wife of 65 years, Audrey, 87, who had a number of health problems including Alzheimer's disease, he said.

He said Mrs Bull could not be cared for at home without the defendant and she would have to be rehoused.

On Tuesday, some family members of both victims gasped in the public gallery as the judge announced the two year sentence was to be suspended for the same period, with several leaving the courtroom.

After sentencing, one man in the public gallery shouted "the justice system is shite", while a woman told relatives of Mr Bull: "I hope you dad lives a long time to regret this. I hope he thinks about them every day."

Later outside court, Ms Clifton's tearful sister, Julie said: "I am angry, devastated. It's just not fair. We lost another sister four years previous to this so it makes it even more devastating losing Debs.

Police at the scene of the incident at Withington Community Hospital in Manchester
Police at the scene of the incident at Withington Community Hospital in Manchester (Richard McCarthy/PA)

"We haven't had justice because they kept going on about him, about how he is 90 and his wife and what a great life they have had. My sister isn't even going to see 50, they had so much left to live for.

"His defence barrister said how remorseful he was but he has never once directed that at the family. That's the least he could have done, to address us and apologise but he didn't even do that. It doesn't matter how old you are, if you cause death by dangerous driving."

An expert collision report concluded the defendant mistakenly activated the accelerator believing he was depressing the brake as he reversed his vehicle after dropping off his infirm wife for a hospital appointment.

He lost control of the Ford Focus which performed an arc at speed and hit a metal bollard.

This, the report said, induced "panic and confusion" in the defendant whose vehicle went on to collide with Ms Haslam and Ms Clifton, from Chorlton.

Bull, who had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, was also banned from the wheel for life.