Thornham farmer jailed for causing woman’s death in tractor crash

A West Norfolk farmer jailed after his tractor killed a mother-of-four on a country road, but later freed on appeal, has been returned to prison today.

After he was first convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, Henry Bett, 28, of Hall Lane, Thornham, near Hunstanton, was jailed for three and a half years.

He was later released after the Appeal Court quashed his conviction and ordered a re-trial.

But, last month, at Cambridge Crown Court, he was convicted of causing the death of Rebecca Brown, 43, of Castle Acre, by dangerous driving for a second time.

Today, at Peterborough Crown Court, a new three and a half year jail sentence was imposed.

The 13 months Bett served of his initial sentence before his appeal was allowed will be taken off the new term.

Prosecutors had claimed Bett had been driving too fast and was over the centre of the carriageway when his Fendt 933 tractor ploughed into a Fiat people carrier driven by Mrs Brown on December 4, 2013.

Although Bett admitted causing death by careless driving, he had denied his actions were dangerous.

But, passing sentence, judge Sean Enright told him his driving had left no margin for error.

He said : “The family had to endure insinuations about her being at fault until you entered a guilty plea to death by careless driving, after being confronted with the expert evidence.

“She was driving carefully and sensibly and her driving was beyond reproach.

“What you said at the incident about her driving and your late plea to careless driving is very hard to square with the remorse you say you feel.”

He continued: “You failed to keep a proper look out and had no regard for vulnerable road users. Anyone who drives a large tractor like this or heavy vehicle should recognise that other road users are very vulnerable.”

He initially passed a sentence of 44 months but was immediately told by defence counsel William Harbage QC that by law he was not allowed to pass a longer sentence than at the original trial, which was 42 months.

Judge Enright then imposed a prison term of 42 months, the same as the trial judge in 2015.

Bett was also disqualified for five years.

The court heard that Bett had three previous convictions for speeding, all in 2011, for driving in private cars at 94mph and 98mph in 70mph limits, and at 48mph in a 30mph zone.

In impact statements read to the court, Mrs Brown’s husband Steven said he worried about his four children who needed a mother. He could not take her place.

He continued : “Although she died four years ago I don’t feel I have moved on at all.

“I feel I am to blame for her death. I should have been driving. When I drive I now feel vulnerable about my life.”

Mrs Brown’s father Ronald Colman said he and his wife visited their daughter’s grave twice a day “and although we know she’s in there, we still expect her to come in the door every morning as she always did with her cheeky smile”.

He highlighted how through one person’s “irresponsible actions the lives of us and our family will always be a struggle”.

Sister-in-law Joanne Colman stated that her husband Matthew, Mrs Brown’s brother, felt guilt “it was not him”. He would swap places with Becky so she could be with her children “where she belongs.”

Mitigating, Mr Harbage QC said the jury must have decided Bett was driving dangerously because of his position in the road and for failing to keep a proper look out.

But although speed featured, experts on both sides were not able to say precisely how fast the tractor was going because of the lack of physical evidence, he pointed out.

He said Bett’s inattention had lasted just a few seconds and his client was genuinely remorseful and “heartbroken” at Mrs Brown’s death.

He continued: “Barely a day goes by without him reliving this accident and thinking about the life that he has taken away.

“He knows that another family has suffered more than he has. He continues to feel the consequences of his action that day very keenly indeed.”