Pontblyddyn crash tragedy family want law to cover unborn babies

Published date: 17 January 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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THE family of a young mother-to-be who died along with her unborn baby are calling for a change in the law.

Driver Calvin Craig Connah, 22, was charged with causing the death of hospital worker Christina Barchetti.

Her family and partner wanted him charged with also causing the death of her unborn baby girl Bella – but the law did not allow it.

Connah, of Ffordd Derw, Leeswood, near Mold, was yesterday jailed for five years and banned from driving for five years.

Judge Philip Hughes said Connah did not appreciate the enormity of what he had done and seemed to regard it as an error of judgement which resulted in terrible consequences.

There were a number of aggravating features including excessive speed and aggressive and intimidating driving – and the judge said he took into account that two lives were lost.

After the case, her partner Graham Clarke said they wanted to see a change in the law – because they felt that in the eyes of the law, the death of baby Bella did not seem to count.

“We are working with our local MP to get the law changed over stillborn deaths,” he said, in a statement issued on behalf of the family after yesterday’s sentencing.

“This person was only charged with one death, that of Christina.

“He was not charged with the death of baby Bella, even though she was born by Caesarean section and we held her in our arms.

“She did not have a chance to take one breath in the outside world,” he said.

“We’re working hard and are going to take it to the House of Commons to try and get this law changed,” he said.

Connah was driving his father’s BMW 318 Ti and decided to overtake another car at the end of a 70mph dual-carriageway, the prosecution said.

But he braked hard when the road became a single carriageway as it entered bends through a wood in a 50mph area.

He lost control of his car which crashed virtually head-on into a Ford Ka being driven by Christina.

She was driving perfectly properly at 40mph in the wet conditions on her own side of the road – but suffered terrible injuries in the impact as her car was pushed back through a wall into woodland.

The 35-year-old died at Wrexham Maelor Hospital where she worked and her baby daughter Bella was still-born during an emergency Caesarian operation.

During his three-day trial last month, Connah claimed he drove no faster than 60mph along the dual-carriageway, denied overtaking another car at the last minute, and said he lost control on the bend at 50mph because of the weather conditions.

He had made an error of judgment, he claimed.

But witnesses told how he sped along the dual-carriageway at an excessive speed and an accident investigator estimated he must have been travelling at about 85mph before the crash occurred.

The jury at Mold Crown Court convicted him by a 10-2 majority.

Connah admitted causing death by careless driving but had denied causing death by driving dangerously on the A541 road at Pontblyddyn, on October 22 last year.

Sentencing Connah, Judge Philip Hughes said Christina Barchetti had done nothing wrong and was driving at an appropriate speed. But she had no chance to take evasive action before Connah drove into her.

He came off a dual-carriageway at speed, lost control on a bend and veered into her path.

The tragedy which was entirely his fault ended the lives of a young woman and her unborn baby, and devastated the lives of those who loved her and now grieved for her.

They would carry the scars of what he had inflicted upon them for the rest of their lives.

The judge said he hoped Connah would never forget what he had done “to their Christina and Bella”.

Judge Hughes said he had read and re-read the victim impact statements from the family who had described in moving terms their loss.

“No sentence of imprisonment I pass on you now will be sufficient to match the loss they have suffered but that’s not the purpose of the sentence.

“It could never compensate for the death of their loved ones.”

It had to be a substantial sentence to mark the gravity of what he had done and the dreadful consequences.

It also had to be based on the level of his culpability, a young man 21 at the time, of no previous convictions.

Judge Hughes told Connah he had approached the scene of the collision at a frighteningly excessive speed.

More than one motorist had described his speed on the wet dual-carriageway at 80 or 90mph in a 70mph speed limit.

“But the manner of your driving was not just fast, it was aggressive and intimidatory,” the judge told him at Mold Crown Court.

Judge Hughes said Connah was obviously determined to overtake the cars ahead before the dual-carriageway came to an end.

The judge said his claim that he did no more than 60 mph on the dual-carriageway and then slowed down was “quite plainly nonsense and a lie.”

It was obvious to him that the road conditions were wet but he made no allowance for that.

“This was not a case of momentary inattention or a lack of concentration,” he said.

His driving well before the scene of the collision was quite obviously dangerous over some distance.

The starting point was one of four years but the judge said he increased that starting point to six years to reflect the aggressive nature of the driving and the excessive speed.

But the sentence would be reduced to five years to take into account the mitigation.

“But I notice with some regret that you still don’t seem to understand or accept that this tragedy was as a result of your dangerous driving.

“You seem to think that you did no more than an error of judgement.

“The sooner you accept that you were completely and solely to blame the better.”

Connah showed no emotion when the sentence was passed.

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