British driver jailed for dangerous driving that led to elderly woman with Alzheimer’s losing both legs
A bus driver in Britain was sentenced to 27 months in jail on Thursday for dangerous driving that led to an elderly woman losing both her legs.
The incident occurred on Sept 19, 2021, in Wallsend, a town in north-eastern England, British media reports said.
Scott Cliff was driving a double-decker bus when he halted at a bus stop to let a passenger alight. Mrs Joan Scott, who was 82 at the time, was waiting for the bus.
Cliff, who is 49, claimed he recognised her as someone who had previously not paid for her ride, so he closed the doors and drove off.
But as the doors were closing, Mrs Scott put her walking stick, which was strapped to her wrist, through them. However, the walking stick did not trigger a safety function on the bus that would have reopened the doors.
As the bus moved off, she was dragged under it and ran over before getting trapped under the rear wheels for 45 minutes.
Mrs Scott had one leg amputated at the scene of the tragedy, while the other was removed in hospital a few hours later.
During the trial, prosecutor Jane Foley said Cliff failed to observe the doors until they were fully closed.
“Had he done so, he would have seen Mrs Scott who stood very close to the bus raising her walking stick, which then became trapped between the doors,” she added.
The court also heard that passengers on the bus saw Mrs Scott hold her hands up to the doors. They formed the view that the driver must have seen her. They then saw her lose her balance and fall onto the road.
Judge Roger Thomas said: “I get the impression he shut the doors to stop her getting on and looked forward because he didn’t want to make eye contact.”
The court also heard that the injuries have had a traumatic effect on Mrs Scott, who had the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at the time but was living independently.
Cliff said he did not know the walking stick was in the doors. He noted it was thin, which was why it did not activate the bus’ safety systems to suggest something was in the way.
He added that he became aware that something was amiss when he heard a bang and a voice outside the bus.
However, Cliff said he followed his training and did not trigger an emergency stop because, at the time, he did not realise it was an obvious emergency. He said his actions were informed by the need to maintain safety for the other passengers but that he did brake firmly.
Cliff was handed a 27-month jail term at Newcastle Crown Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to have caused serious injury by dangerous driving.
After the sentencing, Mrs Scott’s family said he had taken away her independence and hoped his actions would serve as a warning to other drivers.
Her son, Brian, noted that the tragedy could have been avoided if Cliff had shown more compassion and consideration.
“She is trapped in a broken body caused single-handedly by the actions of one person,” he said of his mother.
Mrs Scott’s granddaughter, Sarah, expressed similar sentiments: “How could someone do that? She is in her 80s, she meant no harm.”