Trucker, Christopher Watson, avoids jail term after vehicle chain kills lorry driver, Michael Stringer, on A415

Watford Observer: Christopher Watson. Christopher Watson.

A lorry driver whose unsecured chain killed another trucker in a freak accident has walked from court after a judge said he had been punished enough.

Christopher Watson's flailing metal links sliced through the cab of Michael Stringer's cab "like a cheese wire".

Father-of-two Michael Stringer, 52, died instantly from catastrophic head wounds.

Despite a jury convicting 45-year-old Watson, who was living in Tudor Drive, Watford, at the time of the accident, of causing death by careless driving, Mary Jane Mowat decided not pass an immediate prison sentence.

She had learned the victim's children held no animosity or resentment towards him.

Bald-headed, 6ft 3ins Watson - a thick-set trucker with 20 years experience on the road - wiped tears from his eyes in relief after he was handed an 18-month suspended jail sentence at Oxford Crown Court.

Jurors had decided after a six-day trial that he was at fault for Mr Stringer's death on the A415 near Abingdon, on July 18, 2012.

Judge Mowat said she could have imposed a maximum five-year immediate prison term, but had decided against it.

Watson's defence counsel, John Horgan, said Mr Stringer's death was "a bizarre and unique tragedy", and asked the judge for "mercy".

In her sentencing remarks, Judge Mowat told Watson: "I accept your remorse as genuine. You are not a very demonstrative man but I'm able to see that.

"Nothing obviously can bring back the deceased gentleman.

"Nothing can dull the pain of his family. We all recognize that horrible reality when we are dealing with cases of this kind.

"What is the point of sending someone like you to prison in these circumstances?

"You do not need to be kept from the public for their protection. You have been punished enough."

Watson wiped tears from his eyes as the judge ordered that his 18-month jail term should be suspended for two years.

He was also disqualified from driving for two years, and ordered to pay £500 costs.

The court had been told Watson was driving towards a building site to deliver crane ballast when a loose chain came free from his flat-bed lorry and smashed into Mr Stringer's cab as he approached on the opposite side of the road.

The tragedy was caused by Watson's failure to properly secure the chain as he drove a short distance from a lay-by to the building site.

Watson had been warned he could be jailed after he was found guilty of death by dangerous driving and he had turned up to court with a bag packed ready for prison.

Prosecutor Ann Evans told the judge how the dead man's children held no "resentment or animosity" towards their father's killer.

"Strangely, seeing the defendant standing there giving evidence put the whole event into some sort of context for them," she said.

"His (Mr Stringer's) daughter Kayleigh personally describes how she felt the defendant very much resembled her father - a big, bald chap with an earring.

"She very much felt a resemblance there. There wasn't any resentment or animosity through the trial. They have chosen not to come here today."

Watson's defence counsel told the hearing: "He recognises that the greatest loss of all is felt by Mr Stringer's family.

"He will spend the rest of his life knowing that, as a result of his actions on that day, the jury found that he was responsible for the death of Mr Stringer.

"He is a decent, hard-working man. It's a heavy burden to bear and not one that he bears easily."

Comments (1)

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1:33pm Tue 21 Jan 14

TRT says...

I've often seen lorries with heavy, unsecured chains on the bed driving around the place. I hope that this news item is widely spread around to highlight the potentially fatal consequences of slack practises. Imagine if the unfortunate victim of this had been driving a bus full of passengers at the time. There's no excuse for taking shortcuts when operating a vehicle.
I've often seen lorries with heavy, unsecured chains on the bed driving around the place. I hope that this news item is widely spread around to highlight the potentially fatal consequences of slack practises. Imagine if the unfortunate victim of this had been driving a bus full of passengers at the time. There's no excuse for taking shortcuts when operating a vehicle. TRT

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