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LENIENT SENTENCE CRITICISED
IN TAXI DEATH CASE

An Oldham taxi driver who killed a pedestrian has escaped a jail sentence. But the victim’s widow has branded the sentence as too lenient and has vowed to take action.

Alan Knott, 47, was hit by a private hire car after he left the Carrion Crow public house on August 12, 2005 at around 8 p.m. Although he had tried to avoid the Peugeot 406, he was thrown on to the car bonnet, over its roof and ended up flying through the air ‘like a rag doll’ at a speed estimated at about 70 miles an hour. The driver of the taxi, Talib Hussain, 26, initially claimed that he had been driving at between 30 mph and 33 mph in the 30 mph zone. However, an accident investigation assessed his speed at up to 20 mph over the limit and showed his vehicle had a defective tyre. Mrs Knott, 61, described the devastating effect of the collision: "He landed next to a nearby bus stop, breaking his spine in four places, breaking his neck, damaging nearly every part of his body, and splitting his heart in two.

That was how fast the driver was going. "We know the car didn’t brake because there were no skid marks. He had three passengers in his car. It could have been absolute carnage. Alan was normally so concerned about safety. He tried to get out of the road but the car just flew into him. "He was over six-feet tall, weighed 17 stone and was wearing a white England top. How could the driver have missed him?" Known to his friends as ‘Big Al’ or ‘Biffo’, Mr Knott had worked in a variety of jobs, including as a builder, road worker, barman, bouncer, hotel manager in Blackpool and, most recently, as a security guard. He had a daughter, Carrie, and was stepfather and grandfather to Patricia’s five children and 12 grandchildren. The couple had been together for 27 years and married for 16 years. They were due to go away to Blackpool to celebrate Mrs Knott’s 60th birthday, where Mr Knott was due to meet four of his grandchildren for the first time at the party.

Mr Hussain was acquitted at Manchester Crown court of the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving. Instead, he was convicted of the lesser charge of careless driving, receiving a 750 fine and a three-month driving ban. Judge Jonathan Foster QC, when passing sentence, commented: "This was a bad case of driving without due care and attention that fell short of the very high standard for dangerous driving." The case is one of many recently that have caused public outcry at the lenient sentences that have been imposed. Such is the level of concern that Ken Macdonald QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has described recent punishments received by dangerous drivers who have killed people as ‘absolutely dire’. In an effort to make sentencing more appropriate for the crimes, he has written to 3,000 prosecutors in England and Wales and warned them not to undercharge motorists involved in fatal accidents. He has further warned that fines instead of jail sentences could be seen as ‘miscarriages of justice’. Mrs Knott has been left devastated by the accident and the subsequent sentence. She has been unable to return to the family home without collapsing and is currently staying with her son, Craig.

After the case, she said: "I just wanted closure but I have got no peace. Without my family, I wouldn’t be able to cope. We were so close. We were never apart. I lost my lover, my best friend and my soul mate. I think about him every single day. He was born when I was 13 and I held him as a baby... I held him when he was dying." "The driver should have been given a prison sentence. He didn’t show any remorse and kept referring to my husband as ‘it’. They are supposed to include the victims’ personal statements in court but they didn’t even read them out. A guy in the court next door was fined 2,500 and given four months in prison for damaging a speed camera. Where is the sense in that?" A local businessman has offered to help Mrs Knott take out a private prosecution against Hussain. However, since legal aid is not available for this kind of case, she is unable to pursue this course of action. Nevertheless, she is determined to campaign for stiffer sentencing and says she will be getting in touch with her MP in an attempt to achieve a change in the law.

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