Following an investigation by Thames Valley Police, a woman has been sentenced to a total of four years and one month in prison for causing death by driving without due care and attention whilst being over the prescribed alcohol limit, and perverting the course of justice in Oxfordshire.
A road traffic collision occurred between a Kia Cee’d and a bicycle in Wallingford Road, Cholsey, at about 10.15pm on Thursday 4 June last year.
The cyclist, 54-year-old Graham Ruecroft, was taken to hospital but sadly died of his injuries on 9 June.
Maria Sutton, aged 28, of Newlands Way, Cholsey, who was driving the Kia Cee’d at the time of the collision, was arrested on 5 June 2015.
On 16 September 2015 she was charged with one count of causing death by driving without due care and attention whilst being over the prescribed alcohol limit.
Sutton appeared at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on 17 September last year where she was further charged with perverting the course of justice; she pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice at Oxford Crown Court on 23 December last year.
Sutton reappeared at Oxford Crown Court on 5 April this year and pleaded guilty to causing death by driving without due care and attention whilst over being over the prescribed alcohol limit.
Today she appeared at the same court and was sentenced to 35 months’ imprisonment for causing death by driving without due care and attention whilst over being over the prescribed alcohol limit. and14 months’ imprisonment for perverting the course of justice. The sentences are to run consecutively.
She was also disqualified from driving for eight years, with the disqualification to start upon release from prison, an extended re-test ordered and her licence to be endorsed.
Senior investigating officer, Det Sgt Gavin Collier of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “These are such tragic circumstances where a life has been needlessly taken.
“The actions taken by Maria Sutton during this investigation in an attempt to avoid responsibility and those not taken immediately following it, I find unforgivable. Not only did she knock Graham Ruecroft from his bicycle that evening, but then having momentarily stopped she chose to drive off and report her car stolen rather than to try and help him.
“Miss Sutton abandoned Mr Ruecroft when he needed her help the most, by driving off she left him where he lay in the road for someone else to find.
“We will never know if she had stopped and tried to help, if Mr Ruecroft would still be alive today.
“During the course of this investigation we have worked closely with Mr Ruecroft’s family and our thoughts have been with them throughout.”
Thames Valley Police will be cracking down on motorists who drink-drive in a summer campaign of enforcement action between June 6-12.
Officers from the Joint Roads Policing Unit will conduct random checks and breathalyse drivers throughout the week, and those found to be over the drink-drive limit will be arrested and summonsed to attend court.
Follow the campaign on Twitter using #ItsNotWorthTheRisk
Gavin Hernandez, District Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “This case involved a terrible incident, which led to the untimely death of 54-year-old Doctor Graham Ruecroft. This was a tragic waste of a life and one which could have been avoided.
“Dr Ruecroft had been cycling home, from the train station, along Wallingford Road, Cholsey, shortly after 10pm on 4 June 2015, when he was struck from behind by a black KIA Cee’d driven by Maria Sutton. Graham and his bicycle were projected onto the footpath and Graham sustained serious injuries. Sutton had been drinking, failed to stop and fled the scene, making no attempt to contact emergency services. Passing motorists stopped and Graham was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital where he died of a head injury on 9 June 2015.
“At just after 11pm on the night of the incident, in an attempt to conceal her involvement, Sutton reported her vehicle stolen from the Red Lion pub in Cholsey, where she had spent the evening drinking. It was subsequently located just after midnight a short distance from her home address.
“Following arrest, Sutton answered ‘no comment’ during two police interviews. Evidence, including debris left at the scene, witness statements, CCTV, expert and forensic evidence identified Sutton as the driver of her vehicle, and that she was twice over the prescribed alcohol limit, at the time of the collision. Due to the strength of evidence against her, and recognising that justice had caught up with her, she pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving when over the prescribed limit. She had pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice at an earlier hearing.
“This case highlights the serious consequences of failing to act responsibly when behind the wheel of a vehicle. All road users need to consider other people; particularly those, such as cyclists, who are more vulnerable than themselves. Holding a driving licence brings with it a high degree of responsibility that should always be at the forefront of a driver’s mind.
“We have worked closely with Thames Valley Police since this investigation was launched and as a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved. We hope that the conviction and today’s sentence will in some way help Dr Ruecroft’s family and friends come to terms with this tragic event. Our thoughts are very much with them at this time.”
Ruecroft Family Statement to the Sentencing of Miss Maria Sutton
Although Graham can never be replaced my family and I would like to think that we have gained some form of justice for a crime that has deprived us of an exceptional son, brother, partner and friend. We would also like to express our thanks to the officers of Thames Valley Police who have supported us entirely through this ordeal and supplied comfort and reassurance throughout, in the first instance these officers painstakingly recovered all the evidence to bring forward this successful prosecution where at times their hard work appeared to be marginalised by the leniency shown by the judicial system.
I hope Maria Sutton will use her time in custody to reflect on her actions and understand that she has robbed a family of a loving and considerate individual whose life was cut short during a moment of stupidity caused by the effects of alcohol. We will never know for sure but I firmly believe that if prompt action had occurred that night the consequences may have been less severe and we may not be mourning a professional who not only had contributed considerably to the field of chemistry but still had a lot to offer this and also the field of pharmaceutical drugs.
I have unfortunately had the sad opportunity to listen the telephone call of Maria Sutton reporting her car stolen, this can be heard on the Thames Valley Police anti drink driving campaign and I challenge every one to listen to this and tell me if Sutton sounds remorseful for what she has done, she is cold and callous and without feeling knowing what she had done not an hour earlier, any sentence would always have been too lenient
We are pleased that this sad episode has now come to a conclusion and we can now move forward with our lives unfortunately without Graham, but we will think of him always.