A speeding driver under the influence of alcohol, who fled the scene of a collision in Leeds that resulted in the death of a female pedestrian, has been sentenced to prison.
Vanessa Barnes, 59 years old and from Rossendale, Lancashire, had recently left the Planet Ice rink on Elland Road, having watched her son play for the Leeds Knights on December 10 last year.
While she was walking along the pavement at around 7:30 pm, she was hit by a Ford Transit van driven by Jason Ward, who was exceeding the speed limit and crossing a solid double white line on the road.
After the collision, he exited the van, moved it back onto the pavement, and then fled the scene. A passing police officer was alerted and administered CPR to Mrs. Barnes, but paramedics later pronounced her dead at the scene.
Ward, 52 years old, residing on Throstle Road, Middleton, was subsequently identified as a suspect and arrested the following day. Investigations revealed that he had consumed nearly six pints of lager in the three hours leading up to the collision in Morley, before getting behind the wheel.
He was charged and pleaded guilty in court to causing death by careless driving while exceeding the legal alcohol limit and failing to stop at the scene of a collision.
Today, he was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court to eight years and four months in prison. He also received a driving ban lasting eleven and a half years.
In a Victim Personal Statement, Vanessa’s son Adam Barnes said: “Vanessa Barnes was my Mum. An extraordinary person who treated everyone with love and kindness. She was also a wife, a daughter, a sister, a carer, and a dear friend to so many. A beautiful, selfless, amazing human being, who was brutally taken from us by the irresponsible actions of a drunk driver.
“On the night of the 10th December 2022, I was playing ice hockey for Leeds Knights, a team I’d been a part of for three years. My Mum and Dad had worked immensely hard and made so many sacrifices to enable me to play hockey at the national league level.
“My Mum came to every game and never missed an opportunity to tell me how proud she was. She would stand, week on week, with my Grandma, on the same bench jumping and screaming with excitement. With her outgoing personality and infectious laugh, she was well-known in the rink by everyone and had made many special friends within the ice hockey community over the years.
“Every week after each game my Mum would always wait outside the changing rooms for me. When I came out, she would squeeze me so hard, chatting and laughing before we said our goodbyes. Little did I know that that night would be our final goodbye before she was brutally killed by a coward who left her in the road to die with no care or compassion.
“No words will ever be able to pay tribute to how special my Mum was. She was always happy, the most selfless, loving person I will ever know. She lit up every room with her vibrant personality and infectious laugh. She was loved by everyone and will be missed every single day. A sentence will be served but I believe there is no limit to the never-ending suffering and grief we now feel as a family.”
Detective Constable Mark Turner, of the Major Collision Enquiry Team, said: “Ward has done everything possible to avoid accepting responsibility for his actions on that evening. Despite drinking and clearly being over the drink-drive limit, he got behind the wheel of his van without any consideration for other road users or pedestrians.
“After colliding with Vanessa, he continued to think only of himself, making off from the scene to avoid the police.
“He didn’t enter a plea until the last minute, which I am sure has extended the suffering endured by Vanessa’s family. My thoughts, and those of all the officers who dealt with this terrible incident, are with the family at this time.”