Death driver freed
Reporter: Andrew Rudkin
Date online: 16 January 2013
A DRIVER jailed for killing an Oldham woman when he crashed during a diabetic attack at the wheel has walked free on appeal.
Nigel Rigby (51), of Sycamore Avenue, Chadderton, admitted causing Anna Horsfall’s death by careless driving in December 2010.
But appeal judges decided his 16-month prison sentence — received in October — was too long and allowed his immediate release.
Ms Horsfall’s family has called the Court of Appeal’s decision “disgusting”.
Georgina Horsfall, sister of Anna, who would have celebrated her 34th birthday next month, said: “This is not justice for our family — he should not have been freed, he killed my sister. This is too soon.”
Mr Rigby, a diabetic for 30 years, had been visiting his wife in hospital and had given himself a strong dose of insulin to deal with his high blood sugar level, the court heard.
He was seen drifting from lane to lane; one motorist with whom he argued said he appeared drunk at traffic lights - and moments later he ploughed into 31-year-old Miss Horsfall in Spencer Street, Chadderton, fatally injuring her.
Pleading guilty, he said he had suffered a hypoglycaemic attack without warning - but admitted he could have anticipated it if he had checked his blood sugar level before driving away from the hospital.
Trial judge Judge Leslie Hull likened Mr Rigby’s failure to manage his illness on that one occasion as akin to drinking alcohol then getting behind the wheel. He also disqualified him from driving for 10 years.
Guy Mathieson, representing Rigby on appeal, argued the judge was wrong to characterise the offence in that way and had passed a sentence significantly too long.
Mr Justice Cranston said there was a difference between a drink-driver and a diabetic unfit to drive due to blood sugar problems.
He said Mr Rigby had served four months in prison and that was an appropriate sentence.
Mr Rigby is now back home — but has refrained from commenting on his release.
Mr Justice Cranston, who sat with Lord Justice Pitchford and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave at the appeal, said: “This type of case always poses acute sentencing difficulties. The harm is always enormous.
“In this case, Anna Horsfall lost her life, which has had a devastating effect on her family.
“But in our view, there were exceptional circumstances in this case.
“The appellant’s wife had been in hospital. That led to the stress levels which, on the medical evidence, could have led to the appellant’s hypoglycaemic episode, without warning.
“There was a single error in this case - namely the failure to check before he left the hospital. That failure only might have revealed a risk.”
He said the judge was right to impose a prison sentence but added: “Given the exceptional circumstances of this case, the appropriate sentence was a shorter custodial sentence.”
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