Stephen - Interview 12

Age at interview: 49
Brief Outline: In 2006 Stephen was crossing the road with his brother and brother-in-law. They were hit by a drunk driver. Stephen was severely injured and his brother was killed. The driver pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. It was a terrible shock.
Background: Stephen is an ex-carer, ex-delivery driver (unable to work due to injury). He is single and has 1 child. Ethnic background/nationality' White British.

More about me...

One night in 2006 Stephen, his brother and his brother-in-law were crossing the road. They were hit by a car that was being driven much too fast by a drunk driver.
Stephen’s brother, Tony, was taken to hospital but died of his injuries. He was put on life support for a while, which was later turned off.
Stephen’s brother-in-law sustained minor injuries but Stephen was seriously hurt. He suffered major damage to his arm and his leg. He spent five weeks in hospital and had nine operations.
Stephen had to cope with the pain caused by his injuries. He was also shocked by his brother’s death. He was not well enough to go to the funeral, which was a devastating blow. Tony had a church funeral and was then buried.
There was no inquest because the driver admitted liability and pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. The case came to court seven months later, but only took 15 minutes because of the guilty plea. The judge sentenced the driver to three and a half years in prison and banned him from driving for eight years. Stephen and his family think that the prison sentence was much too short.
The car crash and what happened that night has had a devastating effect on all the family. The hospital staff and the GP have offered Stephen counselling but he has declined because he does not think that talking to anyone would make the pain go away. His family has been very supportive.
Stephen’s injuries have left him disabled. He used to enjoy walking but cannot walk far and cannot kneel on the floor. He has had to give up work too. The emotional and economic impact has been huge. Stephen finds it hard to survive on State benefits. He has a Disability Allowance and Income Support. Stephen hopes to receive some compensation from the car insurance company.
Stephen says that after the incident he felt as though life was over. Time has made things seem a little bit better. Stephen helps with campaigns run by Brake, the road safety charity. He would like it to be illegal for people to drink any alcohol and then drive.
Stephen was interviewed in 2008.

Stephen remembers being semi-conscious in hospital after he was knocked down. His family was...

Well like I said, it was a nineteen-year-old youth. Police said he was two and half times over the drink driving limits. Obviously over twice the speed limit which is thirty miles an hour on that particular road. And like I said there we were all just walking home. And it was a nice clear night, January and we were almost a couple of steps away from the kerb on to the other side of the road.
And just from out of the blue this car was upon us. And witness statements said that my brother was kind of catapulted into the air and onto the ground. My brother in law was sideswiped down the car, so luckily he got minor injuries.
And I was thrown onto the bonnet into the windscreen, onto the roof. And as he was braking, obviously I made the falling motion back down again onto the floor.
Pulling windscreen glass out of my arm for about a week.
On the particular night I found out I was resuscitated twice. And I almost lost my leg because of the severity of the injury to it. So it is so clear in my mind today as it was almost three years ago now.
And it was then I thought this is it, I’m going to die because I thought this is how it’s going to be. And its, it’s all hazy from then on in. I remember being in the ambulance hearing the noise of the sirens as it’s taking me to the hospital.
And the next thing I know is, I’m being wheeled through the corridors. And from that I think it, it was just like every now and again just opening my eyes to see I was in somewhere different. I was in cat scans, doctors round me, people trying to again straighten the leg and put an inflatable splint on.
Just trying and keep it straight. And it was like several hours I think about, about eight hours before I was actually told that my brother had died.
That must’ve been a terrible moment.
It was. It was surreal actually. I mean because of the drugs they were giving me to keep away the pain, I was in and out of consciousness. And I was in like a dreamlike state. I mean like I said I knew full well what had happened. We’d been in a bad accident. But I thought I was probably just dreaming like a nightmare saying that my brother was dead.
Who told you?
The whole family. When I came to it was about nine thirty on the Sunday morning. And when I opened my eyes, again I thought you know I must be dreaming again because there’s every member of the family all around me the bed, from my feet all the way to my head and back down to the feet again. And without even saying anything I just glanced through everybody’s face to try and find my brother.
And of course he wasn’t there. And when I asked, my mother and my brother’s son was standing beside me, and when I asked her, I mean you could see that absolutely devastated by the look on her face, I knew something was bad.
And she let my nephew tell me. And technically he died when he hit the ground. And he was kept alive by a life support machine.
Where they found out he was brain dead.  
What was your immediate feeling?
I wouldn’t believe it.  

Stephen’s family have erected a gravestone in memory of his brother, Tony. They have also made a...

And the do you sometimes go to see his grave now?
Our whole family, weekly we go and do flowers every week. 
Oh that’s nice. And did you make a memorial stone for him or anything that’s a sort of a memorial there, is there a gravestone?
He’s, he’s got a gravestone yes. 
We’ve also got a tribute in the back garden. 
It was nice before but my mother made it into Tony’s garden. So we’ve got flowers and his pictures along the fence. You know if… if for some reason, bad weather, we don’t go to the cemetery, then we go see him in the garden.  

Stephen’s life was shattered when he and his brother were hit by a drunk driver in 2006. Stephen...

So, can you say a little bit more about the whole impact of this on your life?
It’s had a devastating impact… on my life. Before the accident I used to socialise a lot. Although I had a car I would more, mostly walk everywhere I used to go.
Unless of course it was too far. But, yes, I did like walking. But since the accident, because I’ve only got half use of my leg and half use of my arm, simple things like squatting down to the floor, even kneeling on the floor is an impossibility now.
Walk up the stairs sideways. The house has been modified for me. There is a stair lift but I’m still trying to have a little bit of independence, I’m still trying to get along as I am. But I do use a hospital crutch, the elbow crutch now. And I was in the wheelchair for about ten months after the accident…
So the impact of your own injuries of course has been horrific, what about the impact of your brother’s death on the whole family? Can you say a little bit more about that?
Oh it’s unbounded. We’ve, it’s something we’ve never encountered, never prepared for it. It’s like we’ve all lost a part of our heart.
I mean, we know he’s, he’s dead, but the thing is we still don’t want him to be. You know, that, that’s the main thing. Obviously with anybody losing somebody that is everybody’s wish, they were still here.
Of course.
And when it’s sudden, no time for goodbye’s or anything, that makes it doubly harder.
I mean, the rest of the family were around his bed when his life support was turned off to say their goodbyes but I wasn’t.
Hm, that was sad.

Stephen thinks that judges should impose tougher sentences to people who kill by dangerous driving.

It’s not the police you fault. They do their job so thoroughly. I’ve got no qualms whatsoever with the police.
It’s the sentencing, the judges who are not giving out the right punishment. They, they just don’t seem to be improving on it, you know, year on, year out. It’s just the same.
Do you think a longer sentence would be a deterrent and, or, and it would help you as well because you’d feel better? Is that what you’re saying? The two?
Yes. Yes. I mean, for killing somebody death by dangerous driving, seems not, not right. Like in America for example they get charged with vehicle manslaughter…
…which is a much tougher sentence. They go to jail for years.
Why can’t we do that? How many more people have to die before a reasonable sentence is reached? 
But you still called it an accident. Do you like, how do you think about that word? Some people don’t like the word accident.
[Sighs] Yes, it, I know what you’re saying. An accident is when somebody isn’t to blame. It’s an accident. But, yes, you’re right, this guy was responsible so this incident?

Stephen’s brother was killed as he was crossing the road. Seeing the defendant joking with...

Do you mind saying a little bit more about actually, the court case?
It was… it was really something that we’d never experienced before and we didn’t know what to expect. I was a little bit worried in case there was a bit of trouble flaring up and we got into trouble. I mean, you hear of these two families meeting and…
…a bit of friction but we were kept rooms apart, you know, one end room and we was at the other end of the room. What did annoy us a little bit was, just before we were going in the drink driver was laughing and joking with all his friends and…
How awful.
…in the lobby and, you know, I thought, “Well, that’s not the sign of somebody who’s remorseful or…
Who had to give evidence in court? Did many people have to give evidence?
No. I was videotaped by the police to, if there was any reason I couldn’t go to court, due to hospital appointments, then they videoed my interview. And apparently it’s only to be used if he pleaded not guilty.
Did they do the interview at home?
Yes, they came to my house, because I was still quite immobile.
So did you have to give evidence in court, then?
No. There was, there was nobody to give evidence. I mean, it was just because he…
He pleaded guilty in the end.
He was pleading guilty. His solicitor just was trying to tell the court what a good boy he was, and about not being in trouble with the law before and a steady worker and a good honest lad. No there was hardly any mention of what we went through.
Did you, did anybody make an impact statement?
They, they took some of the statements from my videotape and read it out but the judge kind of says, “I know, I’ve read it”, which was a little bit disheartening really. And basically all that happened in the end was, the events were read out in court, about his drink driving, his speed, not looking where he was going, because at the time when he hit us he was actually looking down for a CD in his car. And as soon as all that was out he, the judge sentenced him. So it was over in a matter of 10, 15 minutes.
Oh, really?
Hmhm. It was quite quick.
Were you expecting something different?
I was, to be honest. It’s, it’s not something selfish but I wanted them all to know what we went through.
Not just to be read out on paper. You know, anybody could read a story, but I wanted them to see what we have gone through.
I mean, at the time we didn’t care what they’ve gone through.
They were the perpetrators of this and we were the victims. But like in most cases it’s all about the, the perpetrating act, gets all the talk about in courts, you know. We’re just there in the sidelines just waiting to be asked. But we didn’t get asked.
Was any other member of the family allowed to make an impact statement?

Nearly three years on Stephen found that his pain had become more bearable. He found some kind of...

Have you got any message to other people who might be bereaved in this way?
Well, probably the one that everybody tells, everybody else, time does help. It’s not a healer, I mean, it doesn’t make you forget…
…but it, time passes, it makes it a little more bearable and you can start to get on with some kind of normality again in your life.
So I know what it’s like, you’re just laid there in bed, just the thoughts of your loved one all the time running through your head. You don’t want to get up, you don’t want to go to sleep. You don’t want to eat, you don’t want to drink. You feel as though your life’s over. But all I can say is hang on, it will get better. I’m testimony to that.  
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