'Heartbroken' families 'happy' after driver jailed for crash that killed two bikers after initially walking free from court

BEREAVED families left ‘heartbroken’ after their loved ones were killed in a crash have said they are ‘happy’ the driver who caused the crash was jailed after he initially walked free from court.

By Steve Deeks
Monday, 24th January 2022, 7:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 1:16 pm

Joshua Kempster was sentenced to 10 months’ detention over the deaths of motorcyclists Andrew Cuthbert, 58, and Gary Groves, 62, following a crash on the B3035 Corhampton Lane near Bishop's Waltham and Corhampton on February 2, 2020.

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It comes after the defendant was cleared of two counts of causing death by dangerous driving following a trial over the deaths last July.

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Family members of Andrew Cuthbert and Gary Groves outside Portsmouth Crown Court. The pair were killed in a road accident. Joshua Kempster of West Meon has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for two counts of causing death by careless driving Picture: Steve Deeks

The 19-year-old had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by careless driving but as the prosecution did not accept his guilty pleas – instead arguing for the higher charge of dangerous driving – it was previously decided it was no longer valid.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard that as a result the court had ‘no option’ but to discharge him from the proceedings and let him walk free.

However, two charges of causing death by careless driving were subsequently put to Kempster, of Church Lane, West Meon.

On Monday Kempster admitted the offences and was sentenced.

Joshua Kempster pictured at Portsmouth Crown Court. (220421-7042)

The court heard how Kempster was driving home in his Ford Fiesta Zetec when tragedy struck.

The crash happened when the defendant looked in his rear view mirror too long after becoming distracted by a motorist driving up behind him, resulting in him pulling out on a bend after getting too close to a Kia in front before swerving back into the car, causing both vehicles to spin.

The Kia exploded in a fireball engulfing one rider while the other motorcyclist slammed into a fence with Mr Cuthbert and Mr Groves having no chance to avoid the crash.

Kempster had denied driving ‘dangerously’ in the £6,500 Fiesta and that he was a boy racer, instead arguing he had been distracted by a BMW 3 Series driving quickly behind him by Martin Gardener.

Andrew Cuthbert, left, and Gary Groves. Picture: Hampshire Constabulary

Speaking after the sentence, the families of both men who died said they were happy with the judge’s verdict.

Patricia Barrett, Mr Cuthbert’s sister, said: ‘I’m happy he has gone to jail. We wanted him to say sorry but I don’t think he was.’

Jane Groves, Mr Groves’ sister-in-law, said: ‘We came here today after being told he would probably get a suspended sentence so we are happy he got the 10-month sentence. Nothing will bring back Gary though.’

Mr Groves’ daughter-in-law Claire Groves said: ‘The sentence is more than what we thought he would get.

‘For nearly two years we have thought he would get away with it. Everything seemed to be in his favour.’

Judge Timothy Mousley QC said: ‘Two very good men have died and two families are devastated.

‘Barely a day goes by without them thinking about them. No sentence I pass today will begin to compensate for the loss.’

The judge acknowledged the lesser charges of careless driving but said the driving was ‘not far from dangerous driving’.

He said Kempster left Bishop’s Waltham before overtaking vehicles - prompting one motorist to speed up behind him to attempt to get him to ‘slow down’.

‘The way you had been driving for a significant distance attracted the attention of motorists with your speed excessive,’ judge Mousley said.

Meanwhile both riders were said by the judge to have a ‘reputation for being extremely responsible and safety conscious’ with them not at fault in ‘any way’ for the crash.

The court heard Kempster had cannabis in his system just over the legal limit at the time of the crash but had passed a roadside test - with judge Mousley concluding there was ‘insufficient evidence of you driving while significantly impaired’.

Nick Tucker, defending, said Kempster was ‘haunted by his feelings of remorse and regret’, with him saying a probation officer described him as a ‘broken young man’.

Kempster, of previous good character, had not got behind the wheel since the crash, the barrister said.

Mr Tucker said Kempster was not an ‘habitually careless driver’ and said his ‘remorse was genuine’.

The court heard the bereaved families were left ‘heartbroken’ by the loss of the two popular men, described as ‘rocks’ of their respective families.

Kempster was also disqualified from driving for 35 months.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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