Hartlepool woman avoids jail after causing death of Ethan Owens by careless driving

Ethan lost his life earlier this year.
Ethan lost his life earlier this year.

A grieving family has hit out at the sentence handed down to the driver who caused their son's death.

Zoe Bennison pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to causing the death by careless driving of nine-year-old Ethan Owens in Marina Way, Hartlepool on February 27.

Ethan suffered injuries to his head, pelvis, and spine.

He was treated in James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough for eight days, before doctors took the decision to turn off his life support machine.

Today, Bennison, 26, of Hylton Close, Hartlepool, was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months by Judge Howard Crowson at Teesside Crown Court.

She was also banned from driving for two years.

Ethan's mum Lisa Cooper has spoken to the Mail following the hearing.

She said: "The sentence is a joke, there's no justice.

"She can look forward to having kids and watching them grow up.

"All I have to look forward to is my son in the ground."

Ms Cooper, 39, said her family had been further distressed by medical inquiries into her son's death.

"We've had to bury Ethan without a brain because they wanted that for the court case," said Ms Cooper.

"The sentence for driver who killed Ethan is a joke, and the driving ban of two years is a joke."

The court heard Ethan was thrown 34 metres after being hit by Bennison's £30,000 Range Rover, which was travelling at a minimum speed of 38mph in a 30 mph zone.

Prosecutor Harry Hadfield said Ethan, who dreamt of becoming a fireman, had left a youth club with a friend before the pair then went to the McDonald's restaurant off Marina Way.

They were seen by other drivers 'playfully jogging along' Marina Way towards the crossing on a dual carriageway.

The lads crossed one carriageway safely when the pedestrian light was on green, but after reaching the central reservation, Ethan's friend ran across the road when the pedestrian light was on red.

Ethan then followed as Bennison, who had just picked up a parcel from Asda on her way home from work, was approaching.

The court heard she drove at excessive speed - estimated at between 38 and 47mph by a police examiner - and did not anticipate Ethan might enter the road when the light for drivers was on green.

Mr Hadfield said witnesses saw the youngster thrown into the air.

He told the court: "She was aware of the presence of the two boys, she was aware the first boy had run across the road, and she should therefore have been alive to the possibility the second boy might run out also.

"She told police she got the impression the second boy was going to go, and there is no evidence she took evasive action or slowed down.

"Speed limits exist for a reason, and the defendant chose to drive over the speed limit, she chose not to adjust her speed, and she reapplied the accelerator despite being aware of the possibility that Ethan might step out in front of her."

In statement to court Ethan's father Paul Owens said: "I keep thinking about the speed safety advert on TV that says: 'If you hit me at 30mph I may live, if you hit me at 40mph I will die'."

Mr Owens added: "Lisa will never see Ethan become the fireman he dreamed of being, she keeps replaying the incident over and over in her mind, it seems like a living hell."

Michael Knowles, for Bennison, said she felt genuine remorse.

"She will have to live with the fact that she has been a part of an incident that has led to the death of a young child," said Mr Knowles.

"She will have to live with the fact that had she acted differently this would not have happened.

"The effect on her will far outweigh any sentence your honour can impose."

Judge Crowson said: "Ethan's family grieve the loss of a much loved little boy, of course they blame you for their loss, there is nothing I can do to ease their grief or assuage their anger.

"You will live a lifetime of guilt, and no sentence I impose will change that."

The judge also said he had taken account of Bennison's early guilty plea, her obvious remorse, and the fact that the accident report stated pedestrian error was the primary factor in the case.