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Hit-and-run driver who killed cyclist jailed for 12 months

Lucy Ashton left NHS worker Jennie Dowd for dead after crash in Liverpool

A ​hit-and-run driver who killed an NHS worker who was cycling in Liverpool has been jailed for 12 months.

Jennie Dowd (pictured), aged 31, died in hospital nine days after she was struck by 24-year-old driver Lucy Ashton in Sefton Village on the morning of Sunday 27 September last year.

Ashton, who has also been disqualified from driving for 12 months, pleaded guilty last month to causing death by careless driving and failure to stop.

The crash happened very close to the home of Ms Dowd’s father Peter Dowd, the Labour Member of Parliament for Bootle.

Speaking in court ahead of Ashton being sentenced, he said: “On the Sunday morning she was knocked down, I could hear emergency services’ sirens and I could hear a helicopter close by, breaking the silence of that quiet morning. 

“Little did I know they were on their way to help Jennie, who lay dying in the road just 100 yards from where I live.

“The idea that I was just a minute away from where she had been knocked down, deserted and left alone by the driver, injured and dying has stayed with me ever since.”

He continued: “The room where she was born at Aintree Hospital and the room in which she died on the same hospital site was just 300 yards away. 

“But that short journey belied the real limitless journey between her birth and death,” he added, saying that his daughter had lived “a life packed out with giving which had such a positive effect on so many other people’s lives.”

Merseyside Police Roads Policing Inspector Stuart McIver said: “This is a heart-breaking case in which Jennie, a beloved wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, friend and colleague, lost her life due to the carelessness of Ashton.

“No sentence could begin to reverse the pain that Jennie’s family and friends have suffered since, but hopefully this verdict brings some healing and sense of justice.

“That Ashton chose to abandon the scene of this collision, essentially leaving Jennie for dead, is a decision she will have to live with as she serves her sentence.

“I would implore anyone who drives a car or other vehicle on our roads to be considerate of all other road users,” he added.

“This collision, like so many, was an avoidable tragedy which has devastated so many people.”

In a victim impact statement, Ms Dowd’s wife, Samantha Brighton, said: “Jennie's death is the least remarkable thing about her. I want to tell you about the impact of her love, joy, kindness and good nature on my life, before her death.

“Jennie and I met in South Africa in 2015. What are the chances of two people who lived 8,000 miles apart, finding each other and discovering they were the ones they'd always been searching for?

“We were engaged 11 months later – married three years after that. I moved my entire life from South Africa to nest with Jennie in Liverpool, a city I now proudly call home.

“In this time, Jennie held me, supported me, lifted me up and championed me in every way. She had an innate ability to make you see yourself through her beautiful green eyes.

“Jennie challenged me to be the best version of myself, while also accepting me and others just as we are. What a skill.”

She continued: “I never saw myself as a mother. Jennie changed that. Jennie made me see all the love I, we, together, had to give.

“Just two days before the accident, Jennie and I had picked our sperm donor and booked our first round of IVF treatment to hopefully start a family of our own.”

Just five days before Ms Dowd was killed, she had passed an interview for a job in the NHS Transformation Unit, which helps form the future direction of NHS Trusts throughout the country.

Ms Brighton added: “She was ambitious but always humble and incredibly hardworking. I for one was not surprised she got the job. She was so excited about this new chapter and I was so incredibly proud of her.

“I cannot begin to detail the magnificent work she did and the exemplary care she applied to her delivery, every single day.

“I think of all the great work she would have done, the lives she would have changed, the even greater mark she would have left on this world had she still been with us today.

“So here I stand today with this,” she added. “Two wedding rings instead of one, wedding photos that make me cry, a house that's too big for just me, dwindling hopes for creating my own family, fewer reasons to laugh, gratitude for Jennie's family who've welcomed me with open arms, longing for my own family back home.

“Most of all I'm left with an immense grief. I grieve for the life we had planned. Married for only 18 months, we deserved so much more.

“We worked so hard to build this life, one which celebrated our love, but we were robbed. There is no way to rectify this tragic situation.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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53 comments

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chrisonabike | 2 years ago
0 likes

There's a perfect storm of problems here - law, attitudes etc. The biggest one is that fixing any of the detection / arrest / charging / conviction and sentencing issues will not bring back one life.

I doubt resolving any of those problems will make much of difference to casualty figures either.  Not unless we "bang 'em up for life", we get serious about longer driving bans and properly enforcing them and we have a huge increase in enforcement of "minor infractions" on the roads. Because those who just don't care still won't.  Those who were too casual / distracted / tired didn't plan to go out and kill either. They surely behaved this way before without major consequences.  And everyone still thinks they're a better than average driver.

That's why I bang on about removing the hazard.

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peted76 replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
4 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

There's a perfect storm of problems here - law, attitudes etc. The biggest one is that fixing any of the detection / arrest / charging / conviction and sentencing issues will not bring back one life.

I doubt resolving any of those problems will make much of difference to casualty figures either.  Not unless we "bang 'em up for life", we get serious about longer driving bans and properly enforcing them and we have a huge increase in enforcement of "minor infractions" on the roads. Because those who just don't care still won't.  Those who were too casual / distracted / tired didn't plan to go out and kill either. They surely behaved this way before without major consequences.  And everyone still thinks they're a better than average driver.

That's why I bang on about removing the hazard.

The only way that the motons of this world will actually drive safer is by having the passive threat of an outright lifetime ban from driving. I truly believe that it is an answer to most of the UK's dangerous driving. Having a licence to be in control of a ton of motorised vehicle on Britains road system should be a privilege not a right. Lifetime bans on serious driving incidents should be the laws starting point.

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chrisonabike replied to peted76 | 2 years ago
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peted76 wrote:

The only way that the motons of this world will actually drive safer is by having the passive threat of an outright lifetime ban from driving. I truly believe that it is an answer to most of the UK's dangerous driving. Having a licence to be in control of a ton of motorised vehicle on Britains road system should be a privilege not a right. Lifetime bans on serious driving incidents should be the laws starting point.

I believe most people have little awareness of the legal consequences of bad driving. Not surprising as there are limited legal consequences. We should definitely fix that - not just as a punishment / deterrent but because we shouldn't allow people to continue do things they've proved unsafe at. Depending on any changes in law that might indeed be the quickest action for addressing road safety.

I just don't buy the "deterrence will fix it" aspect. I think that those with bad intentions don't really care (in that moment) and those who were more "thoughtless" still won't pay more attention. And the evidence of people crashing into inanimate objects on a daily basis and ruining their own days - and occasionally lives - suggests that people will always make mistakes and the vehicle is a powerful magnifier of the consequences.

I think it's both "remove the incompetents" and "design our streets and vehicles better" to lessen both the chance of mistakes and the consequences of those mistakes. We do this in some places (motorway design springs to mind) but just give up most others because of a "the car must get through / park everywhere" mindset.

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peted76 | 2 years ago
6 likes

If she was to actually spend 12months in prison, I'd sort of be okay with the prison sentence, she's young and should be given chance to rebuild her life. But the disqualified from driving for 12 month part boils my blood. She should never be allowed behind the wheel of a car again. 

 

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Velo-drone | 2 years ago
6 likes

Let's be clear - this sentence is at the upper end of what you are likely to see for such an incident.  If the deceased were not daughter of an MP, it's highly doubtful that we'd be seeing a prison sentence at all.

In very similar cases it is not unusual for the driver to in fact get off scot free on the basis of the "sun in my eyes" defence

https://road.cc/content/news/142213-driver-blinded-sun-found-not-guilty-...

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wycombewheeler replied to Velo-drone | 2 years ago
1 like
Velo-drone wrote:

Let's be clear - this sentence is at the upper end of what you are likely to see for such an incident.  If the deceased were not daughter of an MP, it's highly doubtful that we'd be seeing a prison sentence at all.

In very similar cases it is not unusual for the driver to in fact get off scot free on the basis of the "sun in my eyes" defence

https://road.cc/content/news/142213-driver-blinded-sun-found-not-guilty-...

I'd like to think it's something like 12 month ban for death by careless (not because it should be but because thats quite typical) and 12 months prison for the failing to stop.

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Velo-drone replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
1 like

Hmm, I haven't looked at the breakdown of the sentencing in this case, but I'd be surprised if that was how it was. 

Partly because failing to stop is generally considered as a fairly minor offence - it isn't in itself what causes the harm - and in this particular case there would be mitigation in that she did return to the scene, albeit she left again - and she did contact the police and effectively hand herself in. 

I'm personally unconvinced that harsher sentences for "failing to stop" are going to be helpful.  In these circumstances, people are panicked and don't make rational decisions.  If they take actions to conceal their involvement, then there are already quite severe penalties for perverting the course of justice (up to lifetime imprisonment). 

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Velo-drone | 2 years ago
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If they take actions to conceal their involvement, then there are already quite severe penalties for perverting the course of justice (up to lifetime imprisonment). 

You might want to alert the courts of that. The last three people who tried altering evidence of their involvements that were recently reported barely got anything extra added to the sentence. 

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chrisonabike replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
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AlsoSomniloquism wrote:

If they take actions to conceal their involvement, then there are already quite severe penalties for perverting the course of justice (up to lifetime imprisonment). 

You might want to alert the courts of that. The last three people who tried altering evidence of their involvements that were recently reported barely got anything extra added to the sentence. 

Don't know the law but I suspect that people are expected to dissemble / hide evidence of their crime and that is normally wrapped up in the "main charge" - so the "peverting" only gets applied for others' actions or for things like witness intimidation, jury tampering and taking advantage of the corruptability of the police?

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Velo-drone replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
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CPS guidance specifically includes within its examples of 'serious harm' for the purpose of establishing a perverting the course of justice, conduct which:

- "avoids a police investigation for disqualified driving or other serious offences;
- "avoids a mandatory penalty such as disqualification"
- "results in the police losing the opportunity to obtain important evidence in a case."

Of course there isn't going to be a life sentence on the cards in relation to perverting the course of justice over most driving offences, that is obviously going to be for the extremes e.g. extended activity to cover up a murder, or attempts to bribe or threaten judges etc.

But the means is there to prosecute, this type of scenario is specifically including in the charging guidelines, and it is certainly possible to give a severe penalty - albeit I haven't actually looked at the sentencing guidelines which would be where you would find out what someone would actually get for this kind of thing.  

The issue is that police and CPS will generally go with the charge(s) that are going to be easiest to prove, and will often leave "minor" offences on file if they think there's a good chance of securing prosecution on a more serious charge. 

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Shades | 2 years ago
5 likes

I get really twitched by low sun; was out the other late afternoon and a section of road was badly affected.  Was thinking, I hope that car approaching from behind is paying attention; any high viz or daytime flashing light probably wouldn't help.

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joe9090 | 2 years ago
2 likes

20 euro pounds says she was on instagram or some crap on her phone at the time of the collsion, and somehow she managed to hide that evidence.

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Rendel Harris replied to joe9090 | 2 years ago
11 likes
joe9090 wrote:

20 euro pounds says she was on instagram or some crap on her phone at the time of the collsion, and somehow she managed to hide that evidence.

It says in the Liverpool Echo that the culprit had been "up arguing with her boyfriend until 2:30 am". Given that the offence was committed at 8:30 am I suspect a strong possibility that she was worried, or knew, that she would fail a breathalyser if she stopped. That's why I think, as stated below, we should have the US law that failing to stop at the scene of an incident is counted as being a refusal to take a breath test and therefore punished as if a test had been taken and failed.

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
1 like

Petition is waiting for a debate - https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/575620

Already had an extremely bland response from the Department for Transport so it's not looking good.

I'm almost certain this won't bring in anything like "if they ran away they likely had one or other specific thing to hide". Happy to be corrected by any lawyers but I think our system is really unwilling to go down that direction.

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Rendel Harris replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
2 likes

You're probably right, which is wrong, if you see what I mean. I think I've mentioned this story on here before, my cousin was knocked down on a zebra crossing in the Kings Road, an incident which put him in a coma for three months and the effects of which he is still coping with 20 years later. The driver, who lived nearby, drove off but soon returned, turning himself into police on the spot and apologising, saying he had panicked and knew he was in the wrong. When the police breathalysed him he was well over the limit, but he claimed that he had been so shocked he had gone home and whacked back several large whiskeys to calm himself down before returning. With no proof that he had actually been drunk driving, he was charged with careless driving and fined £625 and (if I recall correctly) six points. My cousin got very substantial compensation but the bastard (the driver, not my cousin, obviously) should have gone to prison and would have done under US law.

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
3 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

When the police breathalysed him he was well over the limit, but he claimed that he had been so shocked he had gone home and whacked back several large whiskeys to calm himself down before returning. With no proof that he had actually been drunk driving, he was charged with careless driving and fined £625 and (if I recall correctly) six points.

That's an awful story and awful justice. Was about to say that the prosecution had something to answer for but then recalled the "but can you actually prove I drove my car onto the pavement?" defense which apparently works too.

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Rendel Harris replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
2 likes

Cousin was pretty peeved with the prosecution, they pretty much said "this is the best we'll get so we're not going to push for more" and ignored his wishes about matters.

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wycombewheeler replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
4 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

Petition is waiting for a debate - https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/575620

Already had an extremely bland response from the Department for Transport so it's not looking good.

I'm almost certain this won't bring in anything like "if they ran away they likely had one or other specific thing to hide". Happy to be corrected by any lawyers but I think our system is really unwilling to go down that direction.

the argument for harsh penalties for hit and run is not that you should assume the worst about what they are hiding. But that the failure to stop delays medical aid increasing risk of death and also leaves the victim in avulnerable position in the road with risk of secondary impacts.

So the failure to stop is a deliberate choice which increases risk of death for the other person. Unlike the original collision whic society is prepared to accept as an accident. (Although we know it is the likely result of bad driving)

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hairyairey replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
1 like

I sat in on a case where the driver had plead guilty to failing to stop, however careless driving failed because no-one saw him on his phone (he probably was we just didn't see it). In this case the Police were at his house in minutes and had breathalysed him etc.

The Magistrates gave him the maximum penalty points as his own evidence was that he saw three people on the ground in his mirrors and kept going.

Smug little git he was too, turned up in jeans and slouched the whole way through the trial.

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wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
3 likes

the one mitigation here is that she did call police of her own volition, and id not wait to see if they would find her.

However failing to stop is inexcusible. In serious injuries immediate medical attention is crucial, and by failing to stop they have increased the time taken for first responders to arrive. relying on other drivers who may arrive later to start the process. Also as she was driving "with the sun in here eyes" subesequent drivers will also be doing so, so there is an increased risk of second impact, with the prone cyclist further injured by another driver.

Both of these significantly increase the risk of death to the victim, and purely down to the reaction of the driver. Failing to stop after inuring someone should carry penalties at least as high as death by careless driving. 

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Rendel Harris replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
5 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:

Both of these significantly increase the risk of death to the victim, and purely down to the reaction of the driver. Failing to stop after inuring someone should carry penalties at least as high as death by careless driving. 

In a number of states in the US failing to stop after an accident is counted, in addition to any other offence, as having refused a drink/drug test, the penalty for which is exactly the same as failing a drink/drug test. That would seem quite a good way of increasing both the deterrent value and the punishment apportioned for the offence.

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
7 likes

A care worker leaving someone to die in the road?  Not sure she's in the right job.

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jh2727 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
0 likes

I can't see where it mentions Ashton's employment history.

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Hirsute replied to jh2727 | 2 years ago
3 likes

It's in the Echo

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brooksby replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

Well, yeah but she wasn't being paid to care for them, was she?

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mdavidford replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
3 likes

From what I understand, most care workers aren't really paid to care for anybody.

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srchar | 2 years ago
10 likes

The newspaper report is typical bullshit bingo.

Sun in eyes - check.

Panicked - check.

Momentary inattention - check.

Didn't know what to do (didn't know that it's not OK to kill someone and drive off?) - check.

Insulting sentence - check.

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Jetmans Dad replied to srchar | 2 years ago
3 likes

To be fair to the Echo (through heavily gritted teeth) the mitigation BS about the sun and her inattention and panic is all stuff that he lawyer said during the trial. 

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
11 likes

Another tragic case of a cyclist being slaughtered by a callous driver with rather less than a desirable outcome.  I don't mind saying I had tears in my eyes reading the tributes from her friends and relatives.

We cannot, with any pretensions of civilisation, give people the means to kill and injure others without holding them responsible for their actions, with punishments that reflect the devastation they have caused; the death of an innocent person and the pain and suffering of those left behind.

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sensei | 2 years ago
11 likes

Yet another tragic loss of life and yet another appallingly lenient sentence. So many triggers here to boil my blood, but most notable is the failing to stop at the scene of an accident and the series of pathetic excuses rather than accepting responsibility.

 

It is a sad reflection of society that so many motorists instantly prioritise thinking of their own self preservation above the life of the person they've left to die in the road. There is guidance in sentencing towards failure to stop leading to a more severe punishment, yet it rarely seems to be applied in the significance it should be. Perhaps if the sentencing guidelines towards failure to stop were made a lot more severe, for example mandatory doubling of the main sentence, then it might reduce the amount of motorists that leave the scene. Those precious minutes lost by not alerting the authorities immediately are in so many cases the difference between life and death.

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