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"Reckless" driver who killed two women in A27 crash near Chichester is jailed

A speeding driver killed two pensioners after crashing into their car having consumed at least five pints of Stella at the pub.

Ryan Dowling has been jailed following the collision on the A27 near Chichester which also seriously injured a third person.

He was driving a white Ford Focus eastbound about 10.10pm on 27 February 2020 when he crashed into the back of a purple Renault Zoe travelling in the same direction.

Two of the passengers in the Renault – Gillian Casey, 75, (pictured right) of Turnbull Road, Chichester, and Elizabeth Wales, known as Anne Wales, 80, (pictured left) of Melbourne Road, Chichester – were both tragically pronounced dead at the scene. A third passenger sustained serious injuries, while a fourth passenger and the driver received minor injuries.

Dowling, 29, of Woolmer Street, Emsworth, also sustained serious injuries and was taken to hospital for treatment, where a blood sample was taken for analysis more than four hours later. This showed he had 97mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system. The legal limit is 80mg.

Investigations also revealed he was travelling far in excess of the 70mph limit at the time of impact, and witnesses described him overtaking them at excess speed, and only at the very last second.

In contrast, the Renault was driving well within the speed limit in the nearside lane, and was fully illuminated and visible to other road users.

Dowling was later interviewed and answered “no comment” to all questions put to him. But enquiries showed he had consumed at least five pints of lager at The Heron public house in Petersfield shortly before the collision.

He was subsequently summonsed to court to face charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

At Portsmouth Crown Court on 28 April, Dowling pleaded guilty to all three offences and the case was adjourned for sentencing.

On Friday 2 July, he was sentenced to a total of eight-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, of which he must serve half, and disqualified from driving for six-and-a-half years.

His Honour Judge Mousley QC said Dowling’s ability to drive safely was “grossly impaired” and the cause of the collision was his “prolonged and persistent dangerous driving”.

Addressing Dowling, he continued: “Two people lost their lives. Others could have done. The husbands of Anne and Gillian have to live with the horrific memory of the collision in which their deeply-loved wives died.

“Your criminal actions have had far reaching consequences for their families and so many people who knew them. Anne and Gillian had touched the lives of many others. They met through charity work. They were devoted to their husbands and loved by their families – children and grandchildren especially.”

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Greg Brown, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “Dowling’s selfish and irresponsible actions, choosing to drive at speed and after consuming a large quantity of alcohol, tragically cost Mrs Wales and Mrs Casey their lives.

“This sadly confirms the warning we repeatedly issue on road safety: drink-driving destroys lives.

“This incident has not only claimed the lives of two much-loved women, but has also affected their friends and family, and will also impact on the defendant for years to come.

"Alcohol consumption dulls drivers’ perceptions, slows reaction times and increases risk-taking behaviour. Driving at excessive speed means that a driver has less time to react and causes greater injury to road users in the event of a crash.

“Our advice is simple. Drink OR drive; never both.”

The Casey family have issued the following statement:

“Gill was a wonderful person who dedicated her life to her family and to the countless children she taught in her job as a primary school teacher. In retirement she worked tirelessly on behalf of others less fortunate than herself in various voluntary and fundraising roles. That such a gentle and loving person was taken from us by such senseless acts of utter recklessness is extremely difficult to take.

“It is distressing to think that Dowling received a sentence of only eight-and-a-half years and is likely to be released on licence after having served only half of it. Such a sentence seems woefully inadequate for his inexcusable and utterly selfish conduct causing the deaths of two innocent women and seriously injuring a third.

“As a family, we welcome the proposals contained in the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill to give Judges the power to impose life sentences for death by dangerous driving. We urge to Government to enact these proposals without further delay.”

The Wales family have issued the following statement:

"Anne was a remarkably generous and loving person to her family and friends and those she encountered in the communities she had lived in. Through her long and devoted involvement with her churches and local, national and international charities, countless people she never would meet also benefited from her generosity of spirit.

“We take some measure of satisfaction that justice has been enacted and we thank the police and prosecuting authorities for their professionalism and support throughout the process.

“However, this sentence cannot erase the devastating effect on our family of Mr Dowling's choice not to exercise any care or responsibility towards his fellow road users that night. This is compounded by the lack of an apology or explanation for his actions to us or the family of Gill Casey.”

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