Tractor driver is killing for the death of his friend

Ryan Telford, from Woburn Road, Millisle, Newtownards, appeared before Craigavon ​​Crown Court on Wednesday morning for sentencing.

Judge Patrick Lynch QC imposed 240 hours of community service and a 15-month driving ban.

The 26-year-old pleaded guilty to causing the death of his friend, and co-worker, Philip Capper on 6 July 2018.

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Philip Capper who tragically lost his life in a tractor accident in 2018

At around 9pm on this date, the defendant, in the course of his employment, was driving a John Deere tractor on the Back Road, Drumbo.

Mr Capper was a passenger in the tractor.

As Mr Telford approached a right-hand bend on the road, he met an oncoming JCB with a buckrake attachment.

It was clear there was not enough room to pass and the JCB managed to stop.

However, the defendant’s vehicle did not stop “appropriately” as a result of the brakes being uncoupled.

The tractor skidded off the road, went through a hedge and overturned, crushing the passenger, Mr Capper.

Mr Capper was taken to the Royal Hospital but, tragically, he later died as a result of his injuries.

The defendant also sustained injuries and was taken to the hospital.

Judge Lynch said the cause of the accident was “clear in this case”.

He explained to the court how the two brake pedals in the normal position can be activated separately or in conjunction with each other.

“It is clear that, on a public road, they should be attached together, which they can be by a pin, which would mean all four wheels will react.

“One brake will apply to that one side of the tractor.”

Judge Lynch said the defendant was asked about the brakes and that he told the police he knew the pin would lock them and, as far as he was concerned, the brakes were locked.

Mr Telford said “99 per cent of the time the lock would be in place”.

When asked if he had checked if the lock was in place, he said, “well, you wouldn’t really check it, because it’s always locked” but that he “maybe had checked it a few days” prior.

Just before the accident, Mr Telford had encountered another agricultural vehicle and they were able to pass each other without issue.

The judge said it is “not suggested that the speed he was traveling was in excess, and the manner of his actual driving cannot be categorised as careless or dangerous”.

However, he noted that no accident would have occurred if the brakes had been locked.

“I have taken into account the pre-sentence report and submissions to the court,” Judge Lynch stated.

“The defendant is a working man; on this particular week he had worked 50 hours or more.

“He is of good general character. I have a number of references which speak well of him.”

Judge Lynch said no words could remediate the grief felt by the Capper family, nor could any penalty bring back their loved one.

He said he accepted the defendant feels “extreme remorse” and that he did not propose to send him to prison.

Imposing the community service order, Judge Lynch QC said the sentence in no way “trivialises” the Capper family’s tragic loss.

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