Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Judge Jails 'Wild Beast on the Road'

A speeding driver who knocked down and killed a pedestrian on the East Lancashire Road was fortunate to have his case heard by what the judge described as an extraordinarily lenient jury during sentencing.

At around 11pm on 27th March 1937, which was Easter Saturday, 20 year old Bootle woman Margaret Traynor went on a motor coach excursion to Rainford and was dropped back off on the East Lancashire Road near Knowsley. As she was crossing the road arm in arm with another woman, she was knocked down by a car driven at speed by John Parkinson, a civil engineer from Chorley.

Margaret was killed instantly having been caught by the mudguard. Parkinson stopped his car about one hundred yards further on and surrendered to the police. The impact had been so severe that Margaret's left leg was detached from the knee down and flung over one hundred feet into a hedge, where a policeman found it the next morning.

32 year old Parkinson, son of the late construction magnate Sir Lindsay Parkinson who claimed to be the first owner of a car in Blackpool, appeared at the Liverpool assizes on 20th April. Other women in the coach party said Margaret had drank just one glass of beer that evening and that the car was like an 'express train', estimating the speed at 75 miles per hour. Parkinson said he first thought the coach was in motion and he didn't realised it was stopped until too late. He admitted driving at 55 miles per hour, still nearly double the speed limit and said that he swerved but it was too late.

Parkinson was cleared of manslaughter but instead found guilty of dangerous driving. Mr Justice Charles was not impressed with this verdict and made it be known, telling him: 'The jury have for some reason best known to themselves have found an extraordinarily lenient verdict. they would have been well entitled in my judgement to have found you guilty of manslaughter.'

East Lancashire Road by Keith Williams (shared under WikiCommons share alike)
Describing the driving as like that of 'like a wild beast on the road' the judge then sentenced Parkinson to a term of one years imprisonment and also banned him from driving for fifteen years. He appealed against the sentence but this was dismissed at the Court of Criminal Appeal the following month, the Lord Chief Justice pointing out that the maximum penalty for dangerous driving was two and a half years.

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