Majority verdict clears motorist of causing death by careless driving

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A motorist has been cleared of causing death by careless driving on a Suffolk road.

Andrew Saunders was acquitted by majority verdict after a jury took four hours and 20 minutes to decide he was not guilty of causing Shane Lay’s death.

Mr Saunders maintained his innocence during a trial at Ipswich Crown Court, following the fatal collision in Bridge Street, Bungay, in the early hours of Friday, May 13, 2016.

The 50-year-old, of Swan Close, Halesworth, told jurors he saw no pedestrians and thought he had driven over a speed bump.

Mr Lay, 42, who was walking home to Broome with his dog at about 12.50am after drinking at a friend’s house, was found unconscious in the road and later died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Two residents of Bridge Street had told the court they heard a “screech and a thud” followed by the sound of a dog barking.

Both went out to find Mr Lay laying in the road, still holding his dog by a long lead. They said the vehicle sounded like it was going “pretty fast” along the 20mph road – but Mr Saunders denied travelling at excessive speed and said he eased off the throttle after seeing a dog at the side of the road.

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Crash investigators matched debris at the scene to a Nissan Qashqai driven by Mr Saunders.

They later found marks on the front of the car, which he was seen examining on the morning of the crash by a colleague at Menzies Distribution, in Norwich.

Mr Saunders told police his car had collided with a large rabbit on the same journey, which was his reason for checking the vehicle.

The car wash he bought from a filling station that morning was in order to clean the vehicle of bird droppings, he told the court.

When he later learned of the crash in the media, Mr Saunders chose not contact police because the description was of a silver, rather than grey Qashqai.

Her Honour Judge Emma Peters, who permitted jurors to return a majority verdict after failing to reach unanimity, said: “This case has been very difficult.

“It was an undeniable tragedy, and I offer my condolences to Mr Lay’s friends and family.

“Nothing we could do could bring him back.

“You, the jury, have fulfilled your task of making a decision based on the evidence you heard.

“I thank Mr Lay’s family for the dignity they have shown throughout the trial.”