Catherine Hamer's family say 'justice has not been done'
THE family of a student killed in a crash say their faith in justice has been shaken after a minibus driver was cleared of causing her death.
Catherine Hamer was 21 when she died in a car accident on May 28 last year.
Jack Carter, 21, was accused of causing her death by careless driving.
The minibus he was driving collided with Catherine's car on the A3124 near Dolton.
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But Carter, of Haines Hill, Taunton, was found not guilty after a jury at Exeter Crown Court was told the minibus had skidded on loose stones.
This week Catherine's mother Kerry Little, from Frithelstock Stone, spoke of her shock at the verdict.
She said: "I couldn't go into the court to hear the verdict. The rest of the family did and promptly walked out, completely drained, angry, upset, disbelieving and disappointed that we had no justice for Catherine.
"I went into shock. I went to the trial as it was the last thing I could do for Catherine and immediately after the trial I went into auto-pilot.
"Afterwards everyone came back home to Frithelstock Stone. When everyone left it felt as though I had gone back at least a year in the grieving process."
Describing the moment she found out about the accident, she said: "Catherine and her boyfriend Lee were coming home for my birthday.
"At approximately 7.30pm on May 28 a police car pulled up on the drive and our world fell apart.
"The police family liaison officer had come straight from the accident site and said Catherine had been involved in a fatal accident.
"Jack Carter had been on the wrong side of the carriageway when he hit Catherine.
"She died almost immediately."
Catherine's grandparents, Peter and Kathleen Rush, are concerned about the verdict.
The family had waited 17 months for a trial so that Peter Rowe, who is principle researcher at the Transport Research Laboratory, could give evidence.
Mr and Mrs Rush said Mr Rowe's opinion was that a line of small stones was not the cause of the accident.
He said that the gentle 15 degree bend could be safely taken at speed, even in wet conditions.
Mr Rush said: "There has never been a problem on this section of the A3124 before or since the accident.
"I have travelled the road hundreds of times in all conditions over the last three decades and found it to be a safe, well-maintained road.
"Mr Carter managed to have a problem less than one mile from his start position on a familiar road and in a vehicle he was also familiar with.
"Most competent drivers manage to drive safely on our Devon roads even when there are sometimes real hazards to avoid or negotiate.
"In my opinion this standard of competence and vigilance expected and delivered by the vast majority of drivers was certainly not apparent in this case."
Mr Rush said the family found the defence barrister's observation that Catherine was "in the wrong place at the wrong time" offensive.
He said: "Catherine was in her rightful place on the right side of the road but with the wrong driver approaching.
"After a very long wait for the case to be heard in crown court our faith in justice has been shaken by the acceptance of the most frail evidence that attaches the blame to a perfectly safe stretch of road.
"It is our opinion that this verdict is unsafe because it offers a worrying way out for cases of a similar nature having no independent witnesses – the road can take the blame.
"Catherine's family do not consider justice to have been done."