England

Appeal Court quashes death crash RAF man's jail term

An RAF serviceman who caused the deaths of a retired couple in a road crash has been freed from jail.

Anthony and Sylvia Hewitt, of Beeston, Nottingham, died when 26-year-old Kristian Ben Rodgers crashed into their car in Lincolnshire on 23 March 2009.

Rodgers, of Tansley Drive, Sheffield, was jailed for eight months on 7 July for causing death by careless driving.

The Appeal Court ruled the jail term be suspended because it would ruin the career of an "admirable" serviceman.

The jail term was quashed and replaced by an eight-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, with a 100-hour unpaid work order.

'Abrupt end'

Judge Andrew Gilbart QC, sitting with Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Christopher Clarke at London's Criminal Appeal Court, said: "The effect of this sentence would be to bring an obviously capable serviceman's career to an abrupt end."

The decision means Rodgers will be freed immediately and his commanding officer will recommend that he be kept on by the RAF.

The court heard that Rodgers was driving to his girlfriend's home in Sheffield from his base at RAF Coningsby, Lincoln, on the afternoon of 23 March last year.

Mr Hewitt, 70, and his 65-year-old wife, were returning to their home in Nottingham from a holiday on the Lincolnshire coast.

'Profound remorse'

As Rodgers overtook a minibus his car collided head-on with the Hewitts' car, killing them instantly. Rodgers was seriously injured in the smash and was taken to hospital by air ambulance.

References read to the court said Rodgers felt "profound remorse" for what he had done, but the Crown Court judge ruled a custodial term was justified because of his "bad and unnecessary" piece of driving.

Judge Gilbart told the court that, apart from the tragic incident, Rodgers was "in every other respect admirable", having been a senior aircraft technician in the RAF who had served in the Iraq conflict.

His squadron leader said an immediate jail term would result in Rodgers' dismissal from the RAF, but if a suspended term was passed, he would recommend that he be allowed to stay.

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