Driver jailed for three years for causing death of Craven hotelier Tom Bannister

Debbie Barker

Tom Bannister

First published in News

A 43-YEAR-old woman who was almost twice over the legal drink-drive limit has been jailed for three years for causing the death of a Craven hotelier.

Debbie Barker, of Hellifield Road, Gargrave, had been driving her friend Tom Bannister, 48, home from a social event they had attended when the Range Rover Vogue left the road at Carseylands Hill, between Airton and Bell Busk, on June 21 last year, throwing him out.

Bannister, the managing director of the Coniston Hotel, was a front-seat passenger in the vehicle and was not wearing a seatbelt at the time, Bradford Crown Court heard today.

The pair had been part of a group who were at a social event held at Coniston Hotel, which started at about 5pm and went on until 8pm.

However, Barker stayed there until about 11.30pm and offered to give Mr Bannister a lift home. She had been drinking throughout the evening.

It is estimated Barker was nearly twice over the legal drink drive limit at the time of the accident, believed to have been around midnight.

She was also disqualified from driving for five years.

Barker, who had a clean driving licence, was charged with causing the death of Mr Bannister while driving without due care and attention, while over the drink-drive limit, and of failing to report the accident.

After Mr Bannister was thrown from the car and into the nearby field, Barker, who did not have a mobile phone on her at the time, made two unsuccessful calls at nearby homes but then she walked across the field to her house in Gargrave.

Here, she called her husband first, who had been at a beer festival that evening, and telephoned Mr Bannister's father, Michael, shortly before 2am, who found his son showing no signs of life about half an hour later.

The emergency services attended the scene at 2.57am.

Mr Bannister's death was caused by multiple injuries, including several fractured ribs.

A manslaughter charge against her was not proceeded with by the Crown Prosecution Service, after Barker pleaded guilty in June to the other charges.

Ian Howard, prosecuting, said: "This was a narrow road. He suffered injuries entirely consistent with a car crash.

"It has been estimated that Barker was 61-67 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath at the time of the crash at around midnight."

Malcolm Swift, mitigating, said: "This was the one occasion when she made a ridiculous and stupid error.

"She was briefly concussed for a short period of time after the accident and had no recollection of the car leaving the road."

Sentencing her, the Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC, told Barker: "This was careless driving. If you had been paying sufficient attention, this accident would not have occurred. You failed to negotiate a fairly moderate bend in the road, going straight on and hitting a wall.

"Your conduct after the accident is aggravating in relation to this case.

"That significant period of time from the accident to the early hours the police came to your door does you no credit at all."

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