Driver, 96, jailed after killing pensioner crossing road with walking frame
A 96-year-old man who was advised not to drive due to his poor eyesight has been jailed after he crashed into and killed an elderly pensioner as he crossed the road with his Zimmer frame.
William Beer, from Llanbradach, admitted causing the death by dangerous driving of 84-year-old Illtyd Morgan, who was described by his family as being a “hard-working” and “lovely” man.
The fatal incident happened just after midday on April 6 2021 in Caerphilly and despite the efforts of members of the public and emergency services Mr Morgan was pronounced dead later that day.
Police officers made Beer, who had been driving his blue Peugeot 206, do a roadside eye test at the scene of the collision and discovered he could not read a licence plate from more than seven metres away.
Drivers in the UK are required to be able to read a registration number from a distance of at least 20 metres.
Two years earlier in March 2019, Beer had been cautioned by an optician against driving after being diagnosed with bilateral cataracts and macular degeneration.
The former coal miner who worked in the pits during the Second World War and was described as a “gentleman” of “impeccable good character” said he had stopped driving but started back up again due to having to care for his wife who suffered from dementia.
At Newport Crown Court on Friday, Beer told the judge he believed his eyesight had improved following specialist treatment.
However, in an application to renew his licence submitted in November 2019 he did not declare any medical conditions.
Thomas Stanway, prosecuting, said there was CCTV footage that showed Mr Morgan crossing into the middle of Bedwas Road, a residential street in Caerphilly, with a walking aid seconds before Beer braked late and hit him.
In a statement read to the court by Mr Stanway, the victim’s widow, Hazel Morgan, said: “I still cannot believe that he will not be coming home to me. He was not only my husband but my friend and companion.
“I miss so many things we used to do together. We were lucky to have 58 years together, and they were 58 happy years.
“I miss us chatting and laughing together and watching TV.”
Mr Morgan’s son, Gareth, said: “My father was a very hard-working man and I wish I had his determination and strength of will.
“My father voluntarily gave up his licence due to his failing eyesight despite the inconvenience of losing his independence and his limited physical mobility – but that was my father for you. He would do the right thing, regardless of the impact that this would cause.”
He added that Beer’s “actions of putting [his] independence before the safety of others has caused so much unnecessary pain and suffering”.
Malcolm Galloway, for the defence, asked the judge to take into account Beer’s advanced years – stating he would shortly be turning 97 – his previously clean driving record, and guilty plea.
He also asked that his client’s situation at the time of the crash, as full-time carer for his wife of 40 years, be considered.
And he told the court Beer was in mourning having only recently lost his wife, whose funeral took place 10 days ago.
Mr Galloway said: “Mr Beer is a man of impeccable character who lived his life as a gentleman who cared for others and put them before himself and is the most sought after and loved member of his large extended family.”
He added that Beer had shown “genuine remorse” for his actions.
Judge Richard Williams said: “It was noted in your optician’s record at that time that you were unable to drive due to visual standards.
“You say that for a time afterwards you accepted that advice and your wife took over driving duties for the time being until her advancing dementia led her to stop driving.
“In 2019, you began treatment intended to stabilise your condition. Despite this, you renewed your licence.
“I don’t think that you were being truthful when you claimed that you thought your eyesight had improved to the extent that you can take up driving again.
“The best that might be said about it is that you may have felt that you were obliged to drive despite your poor eyesight because you were devoted to your wife, and you were determined to look after her yourself.
“There is considerable personal mitigation in your case and the court is entitled to show a degree of mercy to an offender of advanced years in any event.”
Judge Williams sentenced Beer to two years and four months, also banning him from driving for six years and two months.
His family could be heard crying from the public gallery as he was taken down to the cells.
Anthony Clarke, of the CPS, said: “William Beer’s decision to drive, ignoring medical advice, resulted in the worst possible consequences; the loss of life.
“This case is a tragic reminder that motorists must ensure they are fit to drive safely, for their own safety and the safety of all other road users.
“Mr Morgan’s family have endured a heart-breaking loss and our thoughts remain with them.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.