The trial of a man accused of knocking down and killing a four-year-old girl in his van continues today.
Peter Williams, 62, denies causing the death by dangerous driving of Esme Weir in Gladstone Road, Neston.
The little girl was riding a scooter when she was struck by a van at around noon on January 15 last year.
Esme was treated at the scene by paramedics and taken to Arrowe Park Hospital, where she later died.
Delivery driver Williams, of Poulton Road, Wallasey, is standing trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
Our colleagues at the Liverpool Echo will be bringing you live updates of day two's proceedings.
Prosecution speech closes
Mr Mills says Esme was behaving in a perfectly normal way when she was struck by Williams’ vehicle.
He says: “Ultimately the collision took place because the defendant chose to drive onto the footpath where Esme was in broad daylight, in bright clothing, visible, on a scooter going up and down in a context where he has already seen them cross over onto that pavement.
“The prosecution say he did fall at the very least below the standard and we suggest he has fallen far below that standard.”
Mr Mills invites the jury to find Williams guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.
That ends his speech and today’s hearing. Thanks for following my updates.
Mr Mills asked the jury to consider if Williams was “casting around” for an “excuse” when he allegedly said to the first police officer that a girl had run out in front of him, which he says he does not remember saying.
He says the fact that Williams repeatedly said there was no-one there did not make it right.
Mr Mills says there was someone there, Esme, who he knocked off her scooter and then drove over her.
He says: “The prosecution say the fact there was someone there in their own space on the pavement which he chose to move onto, contrary to the Highway Code, does mean in the circumstances of this case that his departure from the standard care that a competent and careful driver has to exercise when they are behind the wheel.”
Mr Mills says the fact sometimes people break the rules does not mean that is correct driving.
He says nobody is perfect but after an incident like this people have to be held to the standards of a competent and careful driver.
“How on earth can this have happened?”
Mr Mills asks the jury: “How on earth can this have happened if he had been keeping a careful lookout as he made his way into that space or did he do it quickly as suggested by Rachel Santana who was wondering at the time ‘he’s done that a bit fast’? That is in contrast to what he said about stopping and looking. If he stopped and looked how did not see what was going on?”
Mr Mills says if Williams had done the manoeuvre properly he would have seen Esme and her mum.
He says: “Just another few seconds is all it would have taken for this not to have happened.
“If he had just taken longer this the prosecution say would not have happened.”
Let across the road
Mr Mills says if Mrs Weir and Mr Leadbetter are correct, Williams stopped to allow them across the road and Mrs Weir waved thank you.
He says this means Williams - who said he could not remember this happening - would have seen them,
Mr Mills says: “He was therefore at the very least on notice that this young lady had moved onto that pavement and there was every chance they were going to be going along that pavement because he had seen them just before going in that direction.”
Mr Mills says pedestrians should be safe when walking along a pavement.
He says the Highway Code points out how important it is not to move onto a pavement or footpath unless to gain lawful access to a property or in the case of an emergency.
Mr Mills says if you do move onto a pavement you must do it in a careful manner. He says just because some people do park on the pavement it does not always make it right.
He says Williams was parking up to deliver some wood. He says he could have taken the time to do it and made other vehicles wait and he could have done it reasonably and safely.
Mr Mills says Esme and her mum were not in a big rush. Getting to pre-school on time was not a critical event.
He says there is no suggestion Esme was going down the pavement out of control. She was supervised and her mum was looking after her particularly well.
Prosecution closing speech
Mr Mills says the prosecution say there is an all too obvious hardcore of fact that lies behind this case.
He says Esme Weir was sadly killed by the defendant’s van on the pavement just short of midday in daylight on a pretty clear day while being looked after properly by her mum who is taller than her and was a little way behind.
She was wearing pink clothing, was on a scooter and was going up and down as she pushed her way along. She was moving and visible.
He says she was moving, not static or stuck behind something where it was hard to see her.
Mr Mills says: “How could a carefully driven vehicle have hit her and then run her over on the pavement?”
He says there was not a lightning strike or an event that caused this incident, the defendant chose to drive onto the pavement.
“The defendant may say repeatedly there was no-one there but I’m afraid there was someone there.”
Justice Davis says Williams has no previous convictions and is a man of good character.
He says the jurors must give some weight to this.
The judge says expert evidence was provided in this case by two experts who each gave their opinion.
He says they are entitled to do this because they have experience and expertise.
He says they are not obliged to accept their opinion. They assess it just as they do anybody else’s along with the other witnesses.
Three possible verdicts
The judge says there is no dispute that Williams caused the death of Esme Weir. The question for them is did he cause it by the manner of his driving.
If they are sure he did it by dangerous driving, he is guilty of this charge.
Dangerous driving means his driving fell “far below” what is expected of a careful and competent driver and it was obvious to the driver that it fell far below these standards.
The judge says they could return a verdict of causing death by careless driving if they believe the standard of his driving fell below what is expected of a careful and competent driver.
If they do not believe his driving was either dangerous or careless he would be not guilty of both charges.
If they conclude his driving involved a breach of the Highway Code, that may be relevant to whether his driving was careless or dangerous, but does not prove it.
Directions of law
Justice Davis says he will have to sum up the case in due course.
He says normally barristers each give their closing speeches and then he sums up a case.
The judge says often barristers will mention in their closing speeches that a judge will tell them about the law and suggest what he may say.
Justice Davis says he is going to cut out the middle-man and do it now.
He says the burden of proof is on the prosecution. They have to prove the case against Williams beyond reasonable doubt. He does not have to prove anything.
Mr MacDonald is now taking his client back through his police interview.
He says in this interview Williams said he thought the woman he saw on the street stood by the doorway might have been Mrs Weir. He asks why he thought this.
Williams mumbles and gives an answer, which is inaudible across the courtroom.
He denies that he saw Ms Santana in her car and tried to beat her into the space, in case she took it first.
Justice Davis asks him to take a look at some of the reconstruction photographs. He says he thought there were more cars in the street.
The judge asks whether they represent his view from his driver’s seat. He says he cannot remember and is unable to help.
That concludes his evidence.
He is asked if he heard screaming and carried on moving. He says the vehicle was in motion. He says he did not know what was going on.
Williams says he does not know where Esme was, as he never saw her.
He says he does not recall telling the first officer that the little girl ran out in front of him.
Mr Mills asks if he was looking for an excuse. He says he was not.
He says he would not have driven on the pavement if there was somebody on there.
Mr Mills says the problem is there was, someone who had scooted all the way down the road in bright pink clothes, with a taller adult with her.
Williams says he only saw an adult and never saw a young girl.
Mr Mills suggests this happened because he wasn’t keeping a proper lookout.
Williams denies this and says he checked his mirrors and looked properly.
Mr Mills asks why it is he thinks he failed to see her.
He says: “I didn’t see her at all.”
The judge says that is not a fair question.
Mr Mills says: “Did this happen because you were failing to look properly?”
“No,” Williams says. He says he checked properly. He says: “Where that little girl came from, I don’t know.”
Williams says he stopped his van, checked his mirrors and indicated before making the manoeuvre.
Mr Mills asked if he looked through the windows of the Citroen to see if anyone was there. He says he did not look through the windows of any cars.
Mr Mills asks how much he moved in his seat to look around. He says he checked his mirror and looked to the pavement before pulling onto the pavement.
Mr Mills asks if he saw the space and suddenly pulled into it. He denies this.
The lawyer asks when he first heard Mrs Weir scream. He says it was when his front nearside wheel was on the pavement.
He told an officer at the scene, who wrote down what he said, as he was pulling up halfway on the pavement he heard a scream. He says this is correct and what he has told the jury.
Mr Mills says: “Mrs Weir is clear you stopped to let her and Esme cross the road. Did that happen or not?”
He says: “As far as I can remember I did not stop to let Mrs weir and the young girl across. I just cannot remember that point. It may have happened. I’m not saying the lady is saying anything dishonest. I just can’t remember it.”
Mr Mills says: “If she’s right, that would mean you’d seen her, you’d seen Esme in her pink clothes on her scooter going onto the side of Gladstone Road where we know she was heading down, the same side of the road as you pulled onto.”
Williams says: “I never seen them.”
He says he can’t remember seeing them at any point.
Mr Mills says Mr Leadbetter remembers his van slowing down and stopping to let them cross.
Williams says Mr Leadbetter may remember that, but he doesn’t.
He says he didn’t know if the lady in the doorway was Mrs Weir. He says he doesn’t know if that was her now. He says it could have been Mrs Weir.
Williams says if she was the only lady on that side of the road then it must have been her.
Mr Mills asks whether when he told he was going to Gladstone Road the second time, did he think it was “a bit of a pain last time”. Williams says he did not. He did not think back to the previous occasion.
He says: “If you go to many of the roads in Neston you will find the same situation. They are very narrow roads.”
Williams accepts it is just part of the job sometimes that you have to stop where you can. He says sometimes you cannot park at all.
Mr Mills asks if other people could use his van. Williams says they could.
He says he performed all the relevant checks on his vehicle that day, including the mirrors.
Williams says “everything was correctly positioned”.
Mr Mills asks if he put the wood on the van for the best place to unload the wood or for the best view when he was driving.
Williams says there was only a light load of wood on the van, which did not block his view and which he would have unloaded himself.
Williams said in his police interview that the previous time he visited Gladstone Road he parked in the middle of the road because cars were parked on both sides and there were not any spaces. He says he is struggling to remember this and is getting a bit confused.
We are now taking a short break.
Mr Mills says he stands by what he said to police and what he told the second police officer he spoke to, who wrote down what he said and he signed. Williams says he does.
Mr Mills says he said to the police on more than one occasion there was no-one there at the time, but there was someone there.
Williams says there was not. There was a lady in the doorway.
Mr Mills says Esme was there because he hit her.
Williams says: “I didn’t know she was there at the time because I never seen her, the little girl.”
Mr Mills says her mum was also behind her. Williams says he didn’t see her.
The lawyer asks how he came to hit Esme.
Williams says: “I didn’t know there was anyone there. That’s why I said ‘where did she come from?’”
He says the only person he saw on a pavement was a lady stood in a doorway.
Williams says: “I didn’t see anyone there. All I know is when I pulled up onto that pavement, that’s when the lady came running over.”
Voluntary police interview
On March 17, 2016 he attended a police station for a voluntary interview. He was not under arrest at the time but was a suspect.
He stands by the account he gave to police in the interview.
“Where did she come from?”
The defendant says an officer told him to sit on a wall but he couldn’t do it for long as he paced up and down and was told to stay there and don’t move for your own good.
Williams does not remember telling a policeman that the girl had run in front of his van.
He says he remembers saying “where did she come from?” He says he did not know.
Williams confirms the account he later gave to police when he said that the woman screamed at him and said “you’ve knocked my child over”.
He says a man came over to him and said “I don’t suppose I will be getting my delivery now” which he didn’t think was a very nice thing to say at the time.
He was taken to a police station and went to a hospital to be checked over.
Williams says he heard a woman screaming about her child, saying “you’ve knocked my child over”.
He says he got out, went round, tried to help and had blood on her hands.
The defendant says the woman picked the girl up and carried her.
Mr MacDonald asks if the first “alarm” he heard was the woman shouting. He agrees.
Williams says he did not hear banging on his van.
He says he was in such a trauma and a state afterwards as described by Ms Santana.
“I didn’t see anybody”
Williams says he stopped, checked his nearside mirror and indicated before making the manoeuvre.
He says: “I didn’t see anybody on the pavement.”
Williams says he put the van into first gear and swung onto the pavement.
He agrees he would have had to put his van at an angle to get onto the pavement.
Williams says he does not think he went onto the pavement as far as illustrated in a picture shown to him by his lawyer.
He says the manoeuvre was made in “one sweep”.
The jury has heard evidence the engine sound changed after he went onto the kerb. He says he does not recall this.
The jury has heard it suggested the vehicle came off the kerb, rolled back slightly and then went ahead, with the engine sound having changed. He says no, it just went straight on.
Williams says he slowed down to stop, indicated, checked his side mirror, then drove onto the pavement.
He says: “The lady screamed. I got out the van to see what happened and the little girl was on the floor. I went to her, I had blood all over my hands and the mother picked the little girl up and carried her across the road and took her into somebody’s house.”
Mr MacDonald asks him to look at a photograph of where he pulled onto the pavement.
He asks him whereabouts he stopped. He says he stopped by a Citroen, put the car into first gear and went onto the pavement in one sweep.
Previously he had been in second gear. When he realised there was a gap opposite where he had to make his delivery, where there was no room to park, he went to park in this space.
Mr MacDonald asks if he braked to stop. He says he did. He says the cab of his van would have been a little bit in front of the Citroen.
Mr MacDonald asks if he saw anyone on the pavement. He says on the right hand side there were quite a few people. He did not see the customer Steven Leadbetter.
The lawyer asks if he saw anybody on the left hand side. He says he saw a young lady stood in a doorway on the left hand side. He did not know who she was.
Williams says she was standing “a couple of doors down from the accident”.
He says he could not see the woman’s legs because of all the cars that were parked on the road. He says she was stood by a doorway.
Williams says he was travelling at around 10mph as you could not really go any faster than that down the road.
Mr MacDonald asks how he decided which house was the one where he would deliver the wood.
Williams says he looked at the numbers either side and then counted the houses down to work out where to stop.
He says after he worked out where the house was he just looked straight ahead as he drove down the road.
Mr MacDonald asks if he used his mirrors when he drove down the road. He says he did. He did not see anything unusual or odd.
Williams says he does not remember stopping for a vehicle or a person at the junction with Gladstone Road and Brook Street.
He does not recall giving way to a blue Vauxhall Meriva, as described previously in court.
Williams says he does not remember stopping to let Mrs Weir and Esme cross the road.
He says: ”I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but I can’t remember it.”
Williams says you had to park on the pavement a bit on Gladstone Road or else other vehicles could not pass because of the cars already parked on the road and the narrow road.
He does not remember seeing the black Mercedes driven by witness Rachel Santana.
Williams says the road ahead of him was clear and he did not see any vehicles coming towards him from Hinderton Road.
Williams says he had delivered to Gladstone Road before.
The defendant says that was the year before.
Mr MacDonald asks what happened when he made his delivery on the previous occasion.
Williams says he tried to get out on that occasion but two cars had come, one behind him and one in front, and one had to reverse onto Hinderton Road to let him out because cars were parked on either side of the road and there was not enough room.
January 15, 2016
Williams woke up around 6am. He says it was a normal day. He felt fit and well.
He went to work as normal and got to work at around 7.30am.
The defendant drove the truck and completed his duties as normal. He had already made two deliveries that day.
He says he loaded up some timber on the vehicle for the next delivery. There was no rush. It was a normal job.
Williams says he checked the vehicle every morning and there were no defects. He was heading to Gladstone Road to make a delivery to a home in the street.
Mr MacDonald asks him about when he approached the end of Gladstone Road. He is showing him a map of the area.
Williams came down Raby Park Road, which becomes Tannery Lane, towards Gladstone Road and came to the junction with Brook Street.
Williams got his driving licence when he was in the Army at 18. He did three years in the Army and nine years in Army reserves.
He says he worked in a builders yard driving fork lift trucks for 15 years.
Williams was an experienced driver. He has not driven since the incident, he says.
He says: “I won’t be driving anymore. Not after that tragic accident.”
Williams says he does not sleep properly since the incident.
He did not have any points on his licence. He had one endorsement for speeding “years ago”.
Williams was involved in a car crash 20 years ago when he was not at fault.
He was not suffering from any medical issues at the time.
The day before was a normal working day. He finished work at 4.30pm, had a normal evening and went to bed at around 10.30am. He was well rested by the following day.
Peter Williams will now give evidence
Peter Williams will now give evidence to the jury.
He will be questioned first by Alistair MacDonald, QC, defending.
He was 61 at the time of the collision with Esme.
At the time he worked for Neston Building Services. He had worked for them for eight or nine months as a driver.
He drove the tipper pick-up van involved in the case every day.
He was employed as a delivery driver delivering building materials. He had gone as far as Manchester but worked around the Merseyside and Cheshire area.
Mr Green agrees there is nothing wrong with Williams who had perfectly good eyesight, it was in broad daylight, in reasonable weather conditions, all decent conditions for visibility.
He agrees there was Esme and her taller mum making their way down Gladstone Road.
Mr Mills says she was wearing pink clothes and with her mum will have been visible to a motorist at various stages down the street.
Mr Green says he can’t be sure she was visible to Williams. He says she may have been for small periods of time.
Mr Mills says if you are going to park on a pavement it is incumbent on a driver to check you will not collide with anyone on the pavement.
Mr Green says “you have to make all the proper checks”.
Mr Mills says Williams says he stopped, indicated and pulled in and surely he should have seen her.
Justice Davis says it is not for the witness to second guess what the defendant should have seen. He is here to give his expert opinion on turning angles and visibility.
Mr Green says Esme may have been blocked by a Citroen Xsara car before the gap in which Williams parked.
He says if she was behind the Citroen as opposed to further forward, it doesn’t matter how clear his view was, he could not have seen her.
Mr Green says the driver must make all the appropriate checks and the question is whether having made all the appropriate checks whether he could still see not see her.
Mr Mills says he was not in an emergency situation, he was delivering wood.
Mr Green agrees but says it is not up to him to say whether it was appropriate to drive onto the footpath.
He says all he can say is that had he not, he would have blocked the road.
Mr Mills says if Williams had taken more time he could have made the manoeuvre safely.
Mr Green says he is pretty sure everyone involved in the case would have liked there to have been a different outcome.
That concludes his evidence. We will now break for lunch.
Mr MacDonald says he is 6ft 1ins and Williams is only 5ft 5ins.
He says Williams would have a bigger area at ground level than he would of which he could not see from his position in the driving seat of the van.
Mr Green says a child’s head height drops on the “push phase” of using a scooter.