A POSTMAN whose careless driving caused the death of an off-duty Cumbrian police officer has been jailed for 32 weeks.
The devastating impact of the untimely death of 27-year-old Oliver Evans was spelled out at Carlisle Crown Court in a series of heartfelt impact statements from his family and partner.
A charming, bright, and intelligent man, Mr Evans was respected and loved by colleagues at Cumbria Police, where he worked with the Mobile Support Group. He died following an accident on the A683 near Sedbergh on September 16 2019.
Graham Ellison, 59, pleaded guilty to causing his death by careless driving.
The tragedy happened shortly after Ellison overtook a horse and trap on the road near to a bend, the court heard. The defendant began to overtake, moving his Peugeot van onto the wrong side of the road because he planned to collect mail from a post-box there.
At the point, Mr Evans was riding his Triumph motorbike round the bend – but suddenly found himself confronted by what was effectively a blocked road. He had less than two seconds in which to react, the court heard. Ellison had neither pulled on to the grass verge on the wrong side or the road nor driven past the horse and trap and pulled in.
Mr Evans – riding within the speed limit and known to be a careful and competent rider – was thrown from his machine as he braked to avoid a collision. He was confirmed dead at the scene.
Judge Nicholas Barker told the defendant: “You made no attempt to pull on the verge to remove your vehicle from risk or danger. I am satisfied that you simply did not consider the safety of other road users.
“Had you done so, you would have appreciated that your actions were presenting a hazard and a danger to other road users.
“This act, in your mind, at the time was simply an act of convenience. It was easier for you to remain there than to simply pull in or take another action. That decision – your desire for convenience – had tragic consequences.”
Collette Renton, for Ellison, said the defendant had needed counselling as a result of what happened and he thought of Mr Evans every day. “He has said it tortures him,” said the barrister. “He has a cross on his mantle-piece in his home to remind him of the events of that day.
“Whatever sentence you impose today, Mr Ellison still has to live with that event.” She added that he had wanted her to conclude her submissions by offering his condolences to the family of Mr Evans.
The series of statements read to the court included one from Mr Evans’s mother Shirley. She said: “My son Oliver was a charming child who grew up to be a charming man, bright, intelligent, physically fit and he had a charismatic smile which lit up any room he entered.”
She said he was more than a son to her; he was her best friend.
Mr Evans’ father Simon said his son’s death had left a “huge void” in his life, depriving him of many every-day pleasures, such as watching football matches together, listening to his son’s stories of life as a police officer, or sharing birthdays or Christmas.
“I have my memories, at least – wonderful ones,” he said. “But I have lost the creation of so many more all too soon, made hard by it being avoidable.” Mr Evans’ sister Eleanor said her brother’s death was devastating.
And the court heard also from the victim’s partner, who spoke of enduring a roller-coaster of grief at the loss of a man who was both her partner and her best friend. The tragedy had left her feeling numb and lost.
“My whole world seemed to stop and everything went numb,” she said and then described the ordeal of identifying her partner at the mortuary and the nightmares. “I tried to convince myself that I was stuck in a dream and this was a joke; that I would wake up and this would be a horrible nightmare, but I didn’t wake up.”
There were days, she said, when she honestly felt that not waking up would be better than facing the cruel reality of Oliver not being there.
Judge Barker accepted that Ellison – a former serviceman, of Back Lane, Warton, near Carnforth – felt genuine remorse but he said the carelessness involved fell “not far short” of dangerous. The only appropriate punishment, said the judge, was immediate custody.
He also banned Ellison from driving for two years from the point when he is released – likely to be 16 weeks into his sentence.