Man jailed following collision between horses and cars on A14 which resulted in the death of Soham man Thomas Allen
PUBLISHED: 16:44 13 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:49 14 March 2014
A man whose horses strayed on to the A14 into the path of traffic causing the death of a 23-year-old man as he drove home to spend Christmas with his family has been jailed for 28 months.
Sentencing 27-year-old Stacy Humphrys, Judge John Devaux said his horses had escaped a number of times in the weeks before the tragic death of Thomas Allen and he had been warned they were a hazard.
Mr Allen, of Soham, was driving along the westbound carriageway of the A14 at Sproughton, near Ipswich, at 10.20pm on Christmas Eve 2012 with his girlfriend when his car collided with one of five horses which had wandered on to the dual carriageway.
He was taken to Ipswich Hospital and died on Christmas Day.
In a victim impact statement read to Ipswich Crown Court Mr Allen’s mother Lesley described the heartache of having to tell her 14-year old daughter on Christmas Day that her big brother had died.
Humphrys, of West Meadows, admitted causing a public nuisance by allowing his horses to stray on to the A14 during December 2012.
In a statement after yesterday’s sentencing, Mr Allen’s family said: “There is no relief or happiness here today, our loss is just as strong as it was on Christmas Day 2012.
“Nothing can take away the total devastation and pain we feel. Our lives will carry on but they will not be as we had planned. Thomas is not with us anymore and he should be here living his life and fulfilling all his goals and dreams. This accident should never have happened. Tom was not doing anything wrong; he was just travelling home to his family for Christmas and sadly he never arrived.
“All we, his family have now are cherished memories of him. Tom’s future has gone and ours has changed, and nothing can make that better. We will carry on rebuilding our lives without Thomas and at least now we have some kind of closure.”
Judge Devaux accepted that fencing at the disused British Sugar site at Sproughton, where the horses were kept, could have been tampered with but told Humphrys that people who kept horses had a “general duty of care” to keep them secure and prevent them from gaining access to roads.
“This is not a case of being wise after the event. You were well aware from previous and recent escapes that the site was unsuitable for keeping animals,” said the judge.
He said Humphrys had been given advice by the police following earlier escapes but these words had not been sufficiently heeded. “You were warned they were a hazard and this was an accident waiting to happen,” said the judge.
The court heard that in addition to the death of Mr Allen, six people were injured, three horses died and four vehicles were damaged in the carnage caused by the horses straying on to the road.
Nick Staite, prosecuting, said Humphrys had been responsible for a herd of 30-50 horses that had been “fly-grazing” close to the A14.
He said that prior to the collision involving Mr Allen a number of motorists had seen horses galloping along an unlit stretch of the A14 narrowly missing on-coming cars.
Paul Donegan, for Humphrys, said his client had expressed remorse for what had happened and had co-operated with the authorities investigating the collision.
He said Humphrys had taken steps to keep the site where the horses were kept secure. “He can’t say with certainty how and when the horses escaped but he accepts they did and that the responsibilty lies with him and no-one else,” said Mr Donegan.
After yesterday’s sentencing, Sergeant Bob Patterson from Suffolk’s Serious Collision Investigation Team said: “This was a truly horrific collision which resulted in the loss of a young man’s life. It was compounded by the fact that a family lost their loved one on Christmas Day.
“I hope that Stacy Humphrys’ guilty plea and sentencing will provide some comfort to Thomas’ family who have waited over a year for this day to come.”