Family of ‘selfless’ Petts Wood volunteer calls for change in law after charity shop horror crash

PUBLISHED: 15:22 15 November 2017

Queensway, Petts Wood

Queensway, Petts Wood


A jury has decided the driver involved caused death by dangerous driving

A devastated family has called for a change in the law after a car driven by an elderly driver ploughed into a Petts Wood charity shop, killing a 67-year-old woman.

Relatives of Mary Hambrook say they have endured “the worst year imaginable” since she was killed in the crash in August last year.

But the man at the wheel, 87-year-old James Harris will not be prosecuted for the offence, due to him having dementia.

In a statement, Ms Hambrook’s family said: “The law needs to be changed to prevent this all too frequent occurrence where elderly drivers kill innocent people through impaired reaction speed and pedal confusion.”

Ms Hambrook was volunteering at a charity shop in Queensway on August 11 2016, when, at 4.05pm, a Vauxhall Corsa driven by Harris, of Beaumont Road in Petts Wood, accelerated up an exit ramp in a car park opposite the shop.

His vehicle sped across the road, mounting the opposite pavement and entering the charity shop, colliding with displays and hitting Ms Hambrook.

Burn marks around both tyres and the shop carpet revealed the front wheels continued to spin even after the vehicle had been brought to a stop.

Ms Hambrook was rushed to an east London hospital, but died from her injuries on August 14.

Following the incident, Mr Harris was found to have medical evidence of dementia and an absolute discharge was imposed upon him, meaning he cannot be prosecuted for the offence.

On Monday, November 13, a jury in a fact-finding trial into the accident found the pensioner did commit the offence of causing death by dangerous driving.

Ms Hambrook’s family issued the following statement: “Although we will never get over the tragic loss of our loved on and the huge hole it has left in our family, we at least have some closure on what has been the worst year imaginable.

“One of the hardest things to accept is the lack of remorse throughout this time shown by James Harris. How anyone can take a life and feel no remorse is devastating.

“Despite Mr Harris claiming a mechanical fault in his car caused the accident, it took the jury just 15 minutes to decide on the finding of death by dangerous driving. However due to Mr Harris’ recent dementia diagnosis it means he will not face prosecution for this terrible act.

“The law needs to be changed to prevent this all too frequent occurrence where elderly drivers kill innocent people through impaired reaction speed and pedal confusion.

“Mary/Mum was healthy, vibrant and the kindest of ladies; she spent most of her life selflessly caring for others. She was the heart of our family. We now have to move on with our lives without her, but we will always treasure the memories and good times that we shared together”.

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