Judge warns elderly drivers as 85-year-old motorist who killed young mother is jailed

Tuesday, 23rd December 2014

Desreen Brooks, 33, who died after being hit by a car that mounted the pavement in West Hampstead, pictured with husband Ben Brooks-­Dutton

Published: 23 December, 2014
by ALICE HUTTON

AN 85-year-old man was jailed ­yesterday (Monday) and ordered to pay £20,000 after being found guilty of killing a young mother with his car in West Hampstead.

Elderly drivers across the UK were warned by Judge Peter Clarke QC that old age can be “no excuse” for dangerous or careless driving and that their offence was as serious as someone drunk behind the wheel. 

Retired stockbroker Geoffrey Lederman was 83 when he lost control of his 1982 Mercedes and mounted the pavement in West End Lane in November 2012. He was travelling at 54mph.

The “20-second mistake”, in which he mistook the accelerator for the brake, resulted in the death of Desreen Brooks, 33, as she walked with her husband and two-year-old son. 

Lederman was convicted of killing the fashion stylist from Dulwich through dangerous driving following a week-long trial at Blackfriars Crown Court. 

Retired stockbroker Geoffrey Lederman has been convicted of killing fashion stylist Desreen Brooks

Lederman, from Maida Vale, was cleared because of a legal technicality of causing grievous bodily harm to Westminster University student Amy Werner, then 23, who suffered extensive brain damage and lost the sight in one eye after the accident. 

In total, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison, banned from driving for life and told he must pay two years of legal costs for the prosecution totalling nearly £20,000. 

The court heard that Mr Lederman was “fatigued” after playing a seven-hour bridge tournament in Barnet and lost control of the car after it accidentally slipped out of gear outside West Hampstead underground ­station before extensively revving the 32-year-old vehicle and setting off at speed. 

Ms Brooks “took the full force of the speeding car and appears to have been killed instantly” whilst Ms Werner was “thrown” into the road. 

Ms Brooks’ son Jackson only narrowly survived after his father, Ben Brooks-­Dutton, pushed his buggy into an open garden gate – it had been clipped so closely that parts were found ­scattered in the road. 

Judge Clarke added: “The sentence I am about to pass is not in order to make an example of you, but it must be understood that old age cannot be seen as any excuse or mitigation for dangerous or even careless driving. An elderly driver who knows or should acknowledge that he or she is losing his or her ­faculties is no less a danger than a drunken driver who knows the same. Your lifetime of blameless driving is of no comfort to the Brooks-Dutton family.”

Following Mr Lederman’s conviction Mr Brooks-Dutton wrote on his “Life as a Widower” blog urging families to check elderly relatives for “senior moments” and caution them to not drive, saying “confusion killed my wife”.

Christopher Donnellan QC, defending, said that an appeal would be launched. He added: “We don’t have a system in this country which properly assesses [elderly] people.”

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