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Family of pregnant mum killed by speeding driver demand change in inquest law on unborn full-term babies
The heartbroken family of a heavily pregnant mother who died in a car crash a week before Christmas and just a fortnight before her son was due to be born have called for a change in the law after an inquest was held into her death but not that of her unborn child.
Popular and inspirational schoolteacher Anna Kirsopp-Lewis was killed after being hit by a speeding driver in December last year on the A36 near Warminster in Wiltshire, where she lived with her husband, Chris, and her son, Henry, aged two at the time.
Her Peugeot 2008 SUV was hit from behind by a Porsche Cayenne travelling at a speed estimated by experts to have been more than 100mph, driven by Bath-based businessman Ian Barton who had crossed solid double white lines to overtake a number of vehicles illegally, including a lorry, before hitting Anna’s vehicle. He died a few days later in hospital.
An inquest today (Thursday, October 24) at Wiltshire Coroners’ Court recorded a verdict of unlawful killing with regard to 34-year-old Anna, who was 38 weeks pregnant with her second son, called Oscar, at the time of the incident and was travelling to her final ante-natal appointment.
Recording the verdict. Senior coroner David Ridley described Barton’s driving as ‘aggressive, audacious and abhorrent”.
But after today’s hearing, Anna’s family spoke of their sorrow that the inquest had not also ruled on the death of Oscar, who would have been classed as a full-term baby had he been born on the day his mother died.
The video footage showed Barton, already driving in wet and dangerous conditions, crossing solid double white lines into an overtaking lane for traffic coming in the other direction before he struck Anna’s car.
Having viewed the footage, evidence from collision investigation expert Dean Beaumont estimated that Barton was travelling at up to 130mph – more than twice the speed limit.
The family’s solicitor, Claire Roantree, a partner in law firm Boyes Turner’s specialist claims team, said: “The family are relieved that a verdict of unlawful killing has been recorded for Anna.
“They do not and will never think that Anna’s and Oscar’s deaths were an accident. They share the coroner’s view that Mr Barton’s driving was aggressive, audacious and abhorrent”.
“The footage shown in court of Ian Barton’s driving was shocking. It showed complete disregard for the life and safety of other drivers. People can make mistakes when driving but there is a gulf between that and the conscious and deliberate decision that Mr Barton took that day in driving with such disregard to the lives of everyone else on the road.
She added: “The family also believe that today’s hearing should have been for both Anna and Oscar. At the moment, the law does not allow this.
“In the family’s view, the category of bereaved people is too small and should be widened to reflect family life. A family can love an unborn child – but the law does not recognise this. They think that should change.”
Anna’s mother, Caroline Kirsopp, who was celebrating her 60th birthday on the day of the tragic incident, said: “Our lives have been torn apart. Anna and Oscar are irreplaceable. We have lost a loving and much-loved mother, wife, sister and daughter in Anna. In Oscar, we lost a son, brother, nephew and grandson who would have been loved and adored.
“Anna's only mistake was to be on the wrong stretch of road at the wrong time, with tragic consequences which we will all have to live with for the rest of our lives.”
She added: “We are very disappointed that this inquest was not about Oscar's death as well as Anna's. In our view, Oscar was due to be born within days and was a full-term baby. He deserves to be recognised as the person he would have been. Because he was not born, there is no record of him anywhere.
“We believe the law is wrong and needs to be changed to enable other babies like Oscar who die so close to being born to be recognised as the people they would have been and for it to be understood why they died.
“This is a good opportunity for babies like Oscar to become visible and not be lost in the system. Oscar, and other babies like him and their families, deserve no less.”
Anna, who had been due to give birth to Oscar on January 3, was a successful and hugely popular media teacher at nearby Frome College in Somerset. Students paid heartfelt tributes to her after her death.
Notes to Editors
Members of Anna Kirsopp-Lewis’ family will make no further statements at this time.
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