School coach driver from Kessingland spared custodial sentence over Beccles level crossing incident
A school coach driver from Kessingland who drove onto a level crossing as a train was approaching has been spared an immediate jail sentence after a judge accepted the incident was a 'terrible aberration'.
Sixty-five-year-old Peter Fairhead – who had 10 children on board – initially stopped his coach just before the Ingate Street level crossing near Beccles town centre, Ipswich Crown Court heard.
But he then drove forward as the orange warning lights began flashing and the alarm sounded,
Richard Stevens, prosecuting, said that as the coach was moving forward the barrier descended and when the coach stopped on the crossing the barrier came down onto the vehicle's roof.
'As the defendant moved forwards again the barrier scraped along the roof,' he said.
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The driver of the oncoming train, which was travelling at 15mph, saw what was happening and no collision occurred. An investigation into the incident found the warning lights and the alarm were working properly.
'There appears to be no obvious reason for the defendant to have undertaken the manoeuvre,' Mr Stevens said. 'He is an experienced coach driver and has been driving buses in the area for some years.
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When Fairhead was questioned about the incident, he said he had stopped on the level crossing because cars in front of him had stopped for no apparent reason.
Fairhead, of Lloyds Avenue, Kessingland admitted dangerous driving on December 12 last year and was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for nine months and a 12-month driving ban.
Recorder Patricia Lynch said the offence crossed the custody threshold but she accepted that what had happened was a 'terrible aberration'.
She said Fairhead had no previous convictions and had worked hard all his life.
'The court has to take into account all the good work you have done,' she told him.
But she also told Fairhead the consequences of his driving could have been horrific.
'You have gone through all these horrors in your mind and your guilt about what could have happened has taken its toll and you have shown genuine remorse,' said the judge.
She said Fairhead no longer drove coaches and she had read a number of references from people who spoke highly of him.