Paul Browning was sentenced to five years imprisonment yesterday after a judge ruled that he had been using his mobile to send a text message while driving a truck at over 50mph.
Browning veered into a lay by, hitting and killing Paul Hammond. Hammond was there to collect his glasses from his mother.
The judge took the unusual step of ordering a hearing despite a guilty plea to the charge of causing death by dangerous driving, because he wanted to determine whether Browning had been using his phone at the time of the accident.
Investigators obtained a copy of the message from Browning to his then girlfriend, from the network operator, Orange. It read: "Oh yes! A real scorcher! Well, just leaving Benfleet for WThurrock. Job 7 of 11. Oh shit!I'll call u back"
Browning claimed that he composed the message earlier and sent it by mistake after the crash. However, the addition of the last part of the message certainly looks bad.
The police also performed an analysis of Browning's SIM card. They found that the message was sent four minutes after the crash.
After reviewing the evidence, the judge ruled that Browning had been texting at the time of the accident. The defence claimed that papers flying about in the truck distracted him.
In his judgement, Judge Daniel Worsley told Browning: "In many ways it is hard to imagine a more blatant act of cold blooded disregard for safety on the roads." He accepted that Browning was a decent man and was very remorseful, but said he felt a strong sentence would act as a deterrent.
It is not all bad news for lovers of SMS, however. Occasionally text messages do come in handy.
Take the case of Rebecca Fyfe for example. When the boat she was on off the coast of Bali had engine problems she and the other passengers were stranded without any GPS or emergency radio on board.
She set off an international search-and-rescue mission with a text message to her boyfriend back in England.
He called the Thames Coastguard, who called the Falmouth office. They called their counterparts in Australia, who contacted the Indonesian authorities via the embassy in Canberra.
Eventually an Indonesian Navy gunboat was dispatched from Lombok to look for the stricken tourists. However, heavy seas made a rescue attempt difficult for several hours.
The latest news from the Falmouth Coastguard's office was that although nothing had been confirmed in writing, all indications were that everyone was back on dry land. ®