A DRIVER talking on a mobile phone sparked a crash which left a grieving husband to bring up a six-year-old boy on his own - and received just three penalty points and a £500 fine.
Ian Lilley, of Rossett, was beside his wife, Debbie, when she was killed in a collision on the A55, close to its junction with the A51, in Vicars Cross last July.
An inquest heard white van man John Graham Allison, of Sheffield, had pulled over on the 70mph dual carriageway to take a call, leaving his Ford Transit protruding into the Ellesmere Port-bound carriageway.
A following articulated lorry, driven by Peter William Saint, from St Helens, failed to see the obstruction until the final seconds and lost control of his vehicle. It careered across the central barrier into the path of the oncoming Toyota Avensis, driven by 37-year-old Mrs Lilley.
On April 1, Allison admitted parking in a dangerous position, for which he was endorsed and fined. Mr Saint, who, according to a police collision investigator, had a clear view of the van from 400m, has been charged with driving without due care and attention.
A distraught Mr Lilley, whose wife was killed instantly, said afterwards: '[Allison] got three points and a £500 fine and, OK, I know there is proportionality of blame. But at the end of the day, I got a £100 fine for doing 33mph in a 30mph zone. The sentence is totally disproportionate.
'I've looked at a couple of websites and there are quite a number of incidents where this is happening. You look at the judicial system and it takes no account of the consequences of the crime.'
Mr Lilley, an engineer, understands the lorry driver is intending to plead not guilty to the lesser charge. If convicted, the most he could expect to receive is eight penalty points.
'The punishment must fit the crime,' said Mr Lilley. 'I put in my impact statement that I would like to see these guys working in the community for 40 or 100 hours with people who have been in a crash and perhaps it may do some good rather than these extremely lenient sentences.'
Mr Lilley, 37, moved to Llay Road, Rossett, when he got a job at Unilever in Port Sunlight. Debbie had worked as a self-employed public relations consultant and drove about 20,000 miles a year.
Now he can't face returning to the marital home and has moved back to his native Yorkshire. His son, James, has started at a new school and Mr Lilley has had to hire a housekeeper to help him cope.
'Debbie was a friendly lady who loved life and she had a lot to live for,' he said. 'I just couldn't live there. On the first day, I just couldn't go back.'
Speaking at the inquest, Mr Lilley explained how, on the day of the collision, he and his wife were returning to Rossett from Bradford after sorting out his late father's affairs.
Mr Lilley recalled seeing an HGV on the opposite carriageway 'judder' out of the corner of his eye.
'I saw him going over the white van and then I saw him coming straight towards us,' he said. The DAF lorry crashed through the central barrier and turned on to its side before sliding into them.
The car finally came to a rest on a grass embankment, facing the central reservation.
Struggling to get out the words, he recalled: 'I jumped out of the car.
'I looked at Deborah and the side of the car had gone. I put my hand on her head but I knew.'
Police collision investigator PC Steve Binns said Saint, travelling at about 56mph, had a clear view of the parked van from 400m, giving him 16 seconds in which to stop. For the first 11.5 seconds, he did nothing.
Saint said in a statement he may have been distracted because he had 'overchecked' his mirrors. PC Binns said there were case studies which indicated people were not good at judging stationary vehicles if their eyes were moving away from then back to the subject.
Allison, who is recovering from a broken neck, was in his boss's van on the day of the accident. It was not fitted with a hands-free mobile phone kit.
His phone rang and he pulled up to take the call just after the A51 slip-road, claiming as far as he was concerned he was parked safely.
The inquest heard he was not allowed to stop there and PC Binns said the van protruded 1.25m into the nearside lane.
Deputy coroner Dr Janet Napier was urged by lawyers representing Mr Lilley and the Allison to consider a verdict of unlawful death. But she said, based on the evidence she had heard, such a verdict would not meet the standard of proof required and recorded a verdict of accidental death.