A driver who who knocked down a lollipop lady outside a school has been cleared of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Brian Wright, 55, told a jury he did not see Sylvia Blackburn because he was blinded by the sun.
The former chef at Cranfield University was driving a VW Golf when it hit Mrs Blackburn, who had stepped into the road to stop the traffic to allow a mother and her child to cross Bedford Road in Kempston.
Mrs Blackburn, now 72, suffered serious head injuries and is still in hospital nearly a year after the accident. Her family have said the injuries she suffered are life-changing.
In the witness box at Luton Crown Court, Mr Wright broke down in tears and said: “I understand Sylvia was a much-loved lollipop lady, who was loved by the children. I am truly sorry for what I have done to her and her family.”
Judge Michael Kay QC adjourned the case for five minutes to allow Mr Wright to compose himself.
The jury heard how the Golf failed to stop for the red light. Witnesses saw the grandmother’s head hit the screen pillar of the windscreen, before she struck the wing mirror and then the road.
Prosecutor Sally Mealing-McLeod told the jury of seven women and five men that Mrs Blackburn had been a lollipop lady for 20 years. She has been married to her husband Ian for 52 years and has three grown up daughters and a son.
After being hit by the car, at about 3.40pm on December 19 last year, she was taken by air ambulance to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where she was treated for a serious head injury. She was transferred to Bedford Hospital on 13 February. She is now at the Richardson Partnership Care Facility in Northampton, said the prosecutor.
Mr Wright of The Dell, Kempston, pleaded not guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The jury found him not guilty of that charge. They also cleared him of a lesser, alternative charge of careless driving.
Ms Mealing-McLeod told the jury there was no dispute that Mr Wright was driving the car and there was no dispute that Sylvia Blackburn suffered very serious injuries.
She said the defendant had pulled out of Bunyan Road at around 3.40pm - 10 minutes before sunset. Mrs Blackburn was wearing a long-sleeve High Visibility orange and yellow coat with reflective strips. On the back it had the words: “School crossing patrol.”
When the traffic lights turned red she stepped into a carriageway to see a woman and her six-year-old daughter across the road from Bedford Road Lower School. The prosecutor said traffic in the other direction had stopped, but the defendant failed to, and collided with her.
An accident investigator said that, at that time, the sun was ten minutes from setting and would have been potentially shining into the eyes of the driver.
Mr Wright told the jury he was on his way to Sainsbury’s to do some shopping for his mother, who he acted for as a carer.
He said: “I was totally blinded by the sun. I just heard a bump. I was in total shock.”
He said he could not remember whether the traffic lights were red or green.
“I was in tears. I was shaking. I was nervous, scared. I was very upset. Since that day, I have thought of nothing else other than Sylvia Blackburn and her family and the position I have put them in. I have turned their world upside down.”