Family's anger as man who killed 80-year-old in Waterlooville crash avoids jail term despite admitting causing death by careless driving
A MAN has been spared jail for causing the death of an 80-year-old pensioner in a crash involving a mobility scooter - leaving the bereaved family feeling like their lives have been ‘ripped apart’.
Ben Green, 23, of Aintree Drive, Waterlooville, was sentenced to 10 months jail suspended for 20 months at Portsmouth Crown Court, with the term labelled ‘disgusting’ by the deceased’s family.
Green, who initially denied causing 80-year-old John Dognini's death by careless driving, and causing his death while driving uninsured, admitted the offences at a previous hearing.
Mr Dognini was riding a mobility scooter out buying Christmas presents for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren in December 2019 when the crash happened as he was nearly halfway across a pedestrian crossing while the traffic lights were red.
The court heard the crash happened at the junction of London Road and Winifred Road, Waterlooville, a 30mph zone, on December 2. Green was travelling uninsured in his mum’s Vauxhall Corsa at 36mph as he collided with the disabled pensioner after having only braked half a second before.
The defendant said he had been travelling to go to Halfords to get a pump after his work van had a flat tyre.
Dashcam footage of motorist Carl Hadfield, travelling behind Green, was played to the court showing Green crashing into Mr Dognini as the light was red. ‘Mr Hadfield could see the light was red and there was a man crossing,’ prosecutor Richard Milne told the court.
After getting out of his car, Green was heard saying: ‘I didn’t see him - the lights were green.’
He then added: ‘One million per cent the lights were green.’
Collision investigators were able to tell the speed Green was travelling from the air bag released in the car which recorded a ‘precise speed’.
Mr Dognini died 10 days later after the crash after family said his body was left ‘shattered’.
He had been due to celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife Julia in March last year who has been left ‘lonely’ and ‘depressed’ after losing her ‘soul mate’ who did ‘everything for her’.
‘I can’t put into words how much pain this has caused,’ she said.
She added: ‘I’m on my own for the first time in my life. I will never understand why this has happened.’
The family, speaking after the verdict, said: ‘How can you not give someone a custodial sentence when they have taken an innocent person’s life?
‘We feel disgusted and let down by justice. We have a life sentence.
‘If he had been sent to jail that at least would have been something. He only had his licence taken off him last month.
‘This has ripped us apart as a family.’
Speaking of the incident, they admitted it was a ‘terrible accident’ but added: ‘How can you not see the junction? It is so visible. He had no sun visor down and sped up (just before the crash).
‘As a family we cannot understand what he was doing. He should have slowed down.’
The devastation was compounded for both Mr Dognini and his family as he struggled in hospital with numerous broken bones including a fractured skull and two breaks in his back. ‘Lots of bones in his body were shattered which ended up causing a stroke,’ they said.
‘He fought for 10 days and came round and we hoped he might be ok. The strength he showed...he goes down as a hero in our eyes.’
Even during those dark final days, where Mr Dognini ‘foresaw’ his death, there were still moments of joy and laughter he shared with his loved ones - including joking about the football team he supported Charlton Athletic losing.
They admitted the loss of Mr Dognini had left a massive hole in their lives - none more so than for his wife Julia who was not well enough to attend court. ‘John did everything for her. They were two months away from the 60the wedding anniversary. Her health has really suffered since,’ they said.
The family also paid tribute to police liaison officer Paul Freeman who helped support them after the crash.
Judge David Melville QC said it was a ‘horrible story’ and an ‘appalling tragedy’ after describing Mr Dognini as a ‘much-loved family man’.
The judge said the low sun ‘had a part to play’ but told Green he was ‘negligent’.
‘You were travelling at 34mph and increased your speed to 36mph as the collision occurred,’ he said.
‘It was more than momentary misbehaviour as it went on for some seconds.’
He added: ‘You drove for some time blinded and should have stopped. It’s a serious case of careless driving.’
Judge Melville also handed Green 200 hours of unpaid work, gave him 20 rehabilitation days and disqualified him for two years from driving and told him he would need an extended re-test.