The daughter of an 80-year-old man who was mowed down and killed by a pensioner who should not have been driving due to his poor eyesight, held up a picture of her father in court and read an impassioned statement moments before a judge jailed Neil Pemberton for 32 months.
Hazel Dewhurst, the daughter of Peter Westwell, said her father had made every effort to stay fit and healthy into his old age so as not to be a burden to his family, and selflessly gave up his driving licence when advised to do so by doctors due to his age and eyesight following a bout of serious illness.
In an ironic and tragic twist of fate though, after Mr Westwell surrendered his licence - the one thing that provided him with his independence - 81-year-old Neil Pemberton, of Brownhill Road, Blackburn, selfishly decided to deceive the DVLA and renew his driving licence time and time again, despite being blind in his right eye, visually impaired in his left, and against the advice of medics who had told him for nine years to stop driving.
On Wednesday (December 6), Pemberton was sent to prison for causing the death of Mr Westwell in Whalley Road, Langho, on March 17, 2022.
Mr Westwell, from Billington, had been out on his daily stroll on that day, something he had taken to doing to maintain his fitness after giving up his licence and no longer being able to drive out to the Yorkshire Dales, a place he would regularly go walking.
Taking to the stand at Preston Crown Court, Ms Dewhurst held up a picture of her father and directed her words towards Pemberton, who sat in the dock, barely able to hear due to his deafness.
She said: “This is my father, I want you to look at this picture of my dad, this is him here.
“My dad Peter had just celebrated his 80th birthday. He was the last grandparent my children had left.
“He was a fiercely independent and proud man who worked very hard to keep his fitness levels high and was determined to stay healthy and live well for as long as he could.
“He was widowed in 2012 and after that he took to walking in the Yorkshire Dales, fishing in Scotland and shooting.
“He was a real outdoors man who was determined not to be a burden on his family.
“During Covid he had a spell in hospital which was very hard for him and us.
“This was his first time in his life he had to stay in hospital and the lack of control he had over his life at that time was very difficult.
“To say he hated that stay in hospital was the understatement of the century.
“He was very close to death and it was unexpected and life changing for him.
“He was not expected to survive but he made a good recovery, partly because he had kept himself so fit.
“This made his remaining time even more precious.
“He was delighted when we arranged to get him back home much earlier than expected.
“After a lifetime of driving and some professional advice we made the decision to take his car away from him.
“It was very hard to do this. We knew that physically and technically he could move a vehicle better than most people but now his eyesight wasn’t as good as it had been he very reluctantly agreed to give up his car.
“This was not an easy time, he desperately wanted to go back to Scotland and go climbing in the Yorkshire Dales.
“To take his car away was a very difficult decision and the hardest thing we had to do.
“After a while he started to accept the decision and started to take longer walks.
“On March 17, which was a beautiful day, he set off for a good walk.
“He had his walking boots on and was wearing a bright red walking coat and a rucksack with a bottle of water in it.
“He never came home. He died at the side of the road.
“He was not a shuffler or hesitant, he was strong and able and was doing the right thing – walking after taking advice from the doctor not to drive.
“It’s been very hard for us to accept. He won’t get to see his granddaughter graduate and won’t be able to go in the car with his grandson.
“He was a much loved dad, granddad, brother and friend to many. He is missed greatly every single day.
“For him to die because of someone else’s irresponsible actions is almost too much to bear.
“I don’t want people to think of my dad as a shuffling old man.
“I really wanted to thank the people who stopped that day and tried to help my dad, it means I know he wasn’t on his own. They were all so kind.
“Dad was walking that day because he had been told by his doctor and his family that he needed to stop driving so he did.
“I would ask people to please take personal responsibility when it comes to their health and driving and I would also ask family members to have that difficult conversation should they have any concerns.
“My dad was an active, fit, kind loving family man. He fought and worked hard to stay independent and for him to die as a result of someone else’s selfish actions is almost impossible for us to bear.”
Detective Sgt Helen Parkinson, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit at Lancashire Police, said: “First and foremost, my thoughts today are with Peter Westwell’s loved ones.
“They have lost a much-loved dad, grandad, brother, uncle and friend in what was an entirely avoidable tragedy.
“Very sadly and ironically Peter was walking that day as he had been told he couldn’t drive for medical reasons.
“Drivers have a personal responsibility to make sure our roads are as safe as possible and making sure your eyesight meets the standards of vision for driving is an important part of that, just like checking your car is in a fit state to drive.
“Tragically, Neil Pemberton’s failure to meet that personal responsibility had all too obvious catastrophic consequences.”