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Trainee plumber Michael Payne jailed for causing the death by dangerous driving of Stephen Grice

By The Citizen  |  Posted: July 21, 2014

Gloucester Crown Court

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A trainee plumber whose 'impetuous' decision to overtake a bus on double white lines killed a 49-year-old man and badly injured his fiancee was jailed for 27 months today.

Forgiving members of victim Stephen Grice's family had asked the judge at Gloucester Crown Court not to jail 23-year-old driver Michael Payne but to send him on an advanced driving course.

But Judge Jamie Tabor QC told remorseful Payne, of Rowan close, Ross-on-Wye, that he was duty bound to pass a jail term. He also banned Payne from driving for four years.

Payne pleaded guilty to causing the death of engineer Mr Grice, a dad of two, from Drybrook, Forest of Dean, by dangerous driving on the A40 at Birdwood, near Gloucester, on December 14 last year.

He also admitted causing serious injury to Mr Grice's fiancee, Nula Davies, by driving dangerously on the same occasion.

The couple had been together since 2009 and were due to be married in June this year. Mr Grice is survived by his son Elliott, 21, and daughter Molly, 19, and was also stepfather to Mrs Davies' children.

Prosecutor Julian Kesner said Grice was driving a Vauxhall Combi van towards Huntley when he took the spur of the moment decision to overtake a bus doing 30 mph on double white lines.

Coming the other way was a Fiat 500 driven by Nula Davies' teenaged daughter Tara. Mrs Davies was in the front passenger seat and Mr Grice was behind her.

Mr Kesner said Payne's van suddenly appeared in front of Tara Davies on her side of the road and she had no time to do anything to avoid the collision. Payne did brake heavily but could not avoid it either.

In the aftermath of the horrific collision Payne was heard at the scene saying "What have I done?"

Mr Grice initially survived the collision and after treatment at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital was discharged.

However, he then died at home in the arms of his sister and father, from deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism which were directly caused by his injuries.

Mr Kesner said Mrs Davies, a medical sales representative, suffered three fractured vertebrae, a broken breastbone and right wrist. She was unable to drive again for three months and still finds it difficult to bend or twist.

He said that other motorists driving behind Payne when he pulled out to overtake had judged it a dangerous and even a 'suicidal' move.

In a victim statement Mrs Davies said "Payne's decision to overtake when he did has had a catastrophic effect on my children and I.

"Most devastating is the loss of my beloved fiance Steve. He was a wonderful man - the most loving and caring man.

"He was bright and intelligent with a great sense of fun. We lived every day to the full.

"I knew every day I was loved by him and felt lucky to be so. I adored him and was looking forward to becoming his wife on June 28th this year.

"He was an amazing stepfather to my children and he loved and cared for them . He showed an interest in everything they did."

Mr Kesner said that before today's case began Payne had spoken to the Mr Grice's family to apologise.

In a statement, the Grice family said he was 'full of fun and had a passion for life.'

He was also described as a doting dad and a 'beautiful son and brother.'

About 20 relatives of Mr Grice and Mrs Davies were in court for the hearing, many in tears.

The Grice family statement said Payne had made a 'huge mistake and a serious error of judgement' in a split second decision to overtake and it was something he would have to live with for the rest of his life.

But they said "We have no say in the sentence but an advanced driving course would seem most beneficial to Michael and the general public rather than a custodial sentence."

Judge Tabor described it as a 'magnanimous gesture' by the family. Their attitude was rarely seen in such a case, he said.

Mr Kesner said Payne was of previous good character with a clean licence.

His barrister, Matthew Kerruish-Jones, said Payne's request to speak to the family was a testament to the kind of person he is - a law abiding apprentice heating and plumbing engineer with many references from friends and family to support him.

Mr Kerruish-Jones read out a letter to Mr Gride's fmaily in which Payne wrote "I express my sincerest remorse for the accident which happened. I cannot tell you how sorry I truly am for causing the death of Stephen Grice.

"My thoughts are continuously with the family and how I have affected their lives by taking away the life of a person they loved. This accident will remain with me for the rest of mu life and I shall never forgive myself."

Passing sentence Judge Tabor told Payne he was a 'decent young man who made a momentary catastrophic decision.'

Outside court Mr Grice's father Raymond Grice said "I don't think the outcome did anything for my family or his family. He didn't mean to do it. It was just a stupid thing he did. The sentence won't bring back my son and I just feel sorry for his family."

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  • horatio_nero  |  July 21 2014, 2:32PM

    Let this be a lesson, I average 3 near misses a day due to people attempting to shave a few seconds from their journey time.

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