Crash driver who killed popular Kinver teacher is spared jail

Stourbridge News: Francine Austin Francine Austin

THE ex-wife of the head of the world famous David Austin Roses empire was spared jail today (Friday) after she admitted killing a popular Kinver teacher while drunk at the wheel of her sports car.

Wealthy Francine Austin, aged 54, ploughed her £30,000 Audi A3 convertible into Brenda Wilson, aged 62, who was walking a dog with her friend along the side of a country road.

Mrs Wilson, a primary school teacher, was killed instantly along with a Yorkshire Terrier which belonged to her friend Deidre McFadden.

Mrs McFadden, aged 48, who had been walking with Mrs Wilson, also suffered serious injuries in the crash on August 4 last year.

When officers breathalysed Austin, whose husband runs the global David Austin Roses empire, she had 54mcg of alcohol per 100ml of breath - one-and-a-half times the legal limit of 35mcg.

She told officers she had drunk four glasses of wine the previous night before driving her daughter to a music festival the following morning.

Austin admitted "causing death by driving without due care while over the legal alcohol limit" at Stafford Crown Court.

But she was spared jail and was sent to a psychiatric hospital after the judge heard she had suffered from depression.

Judge John Maxwell told her: "What you did has caused the loss of a life and it has caused other lives to be ruined.

"The seriousness of it is obvious, and you know that there are guidelines that govern how judges treat cases like this.

"It is a case where you were drowsy, it is a case where you knew you were likely to be drowsy, it is a case where you have not told the truth about how much you had to drink and you nevertheless drove."

Judge Maxwell said he felt a sentence of three years in prison would be appropriate, but decided to make an indeterminate hospital order based on psychiatric reports.

She was also banned from driving for five years on her release.

Judge Maxwell added: "The position is that you should not go to prison but that you should be detained in a mental hospital.

"I have considerable reservations about that because you are mentally ill, but I look at the psychological trauma that other people have suffered and I don't know whether the trauma for them makes them mentally ill, probably not, but it is a very severe level of trauma and depression.

"Why should your mental suffering make so much difference to the case?

"You do not deserve leniency, but I feel I really have no alternative but to make a hospital order.

"If I did anything else I think it would be wrong in principle and in making a hospital order I do not in any way detract from the seriousness of what you did."

The court heard witnesses watched in horror as Austin's car veered off the road and hit Mrs Wilson.

Robert Price, prosecuting, said: "A witness noticed that the Audi was travelling up its correct side of the road but didn't appear to be travelling the natural course of road and he believed that there was something wrong with the way in which the car was being manoeuvred.

"It veered from its natural course, headed directly towards the pavement as if it was what the driver intended."

Andrew Fisher QC, defending, said the defendant had felt drowsy after driving her daughter to a music festival in Ledbury, Herefordshire.

Mr Fisher added that she had been on medication for depression and had recently undergone a three-month spell in a psychiatric hospital.

He said: "We simply submit in this terrible and tragic case that the court should deal with her in the knowledge of her mental health.

"She is ill, and as with any offender before any court they have to be dealt with within the regime that relates to that."

The court heard Mrs Wilson was walking along the A458 Bridgnorth Road in Stourton at 10.30am on August 4 last year when she was hit by Austin's car.

The former secondary school headteacher from Kinver died of head injuries while her friend survived after injuring her arm.

The judge ordered that Mrs Austin be detained in the plush Woodbourne Priory hospital in Birmingham.

Speaking outside the court, Mrs Wilson's son Edward Davies said he was disgusted at the sentence.

He said: "This is an absolute disgrace. Three years, that should have been her sentence.

"She's got submissions from two psychiatrists saying that she shouldn't go to prison, we dispute what they're saying.

"I think she should serve the full prison sentence after the doctors let her out, but she'll probably only do a year in the hospital and be let out.

"If you've got money you can pay for expensive psychiatric reports. Money talks.

"Even the judge said his hands were tied."

Mrs Wilson's daughter, Laura Davies, added: "Her selfish and self-centred actions have caused the death of an inspirational person.

"We are in constant pain, we are not really living, we are just existing.

"I had to walk out because I couldn't cope with hearing that she wouldn't go to prison.

"This was the worst case scenario."

Austin, from Claverley, married David Julian Charles Austin, the son of David Austin OBE who built up the famous family firm.

Mr Austin senior received the OBE in the Queen's birthday honours list for services to horticulture in June 2007.

The family have made a fortune from overseeing one of the world's largest garden rose breeding programmes in Albrighton, Shropshire.

Austin even had a white rose, the result of cross-breeding an old Noisette rose and English variety, named after her, which is called 'Francine Austin (Ausram)'.

It is understood Austin and David were divorced 18 months to two years ago.

Comments (9)

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3:52pm Fri 6 Jul 12

Alexander Mills says...

Outrageous ! Am disgusted that she was “spared” prison.. she has caused misery and heartbreak – and then avoids prison by being “depressed”. She should spend time in prison after recovering from her made up illness.
Outrageous ! Am disgusted that she was “spared” prison.. she has caused misery and heartbreak – and then avoids prison by being “depressed”. She should spend time in prison after recovering from her made up illness. Alexander Mills

4:15pm Fri 6 Jul 12

amandaedwards says...

This is NOT justice. I hope she will suffer with overwhelming guilt & self disgust. The 'hospital' is merely a pampering clinic. Unacceptable diabolical judgement.
This is NOT justice. I hope she will suffer with overwhelming guilt & self disgust. The 'hospital' is merely a pampering clinic. Unacceptable diabolical judgement. amandaedwards

5:59pm Fri 6 Jul 12

valrussell says...

If every one 'suffering from depression' was spared prison the prisons would be empty.The far reaching effects of her irresponsible actions will last a lot longer than a rest in an expensive hospital.This is an insult to justice.I agree MONEY TALKS!!
If every one 'suffering from depression' was spared prison the prisons would be empty.The far reaching effects of her irresponsible actions will last a lot longer than a rest in an expensive hospital.This is an insult to justice.I agree MONEY TALKS!! valrussell

7:09pm Fri 6 Jul 12

IreneBurden says...

Brenda was a loving and muched loved lady, who inspired all of those that she met. She was a wife and mother, my sister in law, my husband's sister and auntie to my children, a good and dear friend to so many.
It is an absolute travesty that happened in the court room today, a person who thought they were above the law, knowingly chose to drink alcohol which mixed with the alleged medication that she was taking and then went out and used a car as a lethal weapon. The result the death of a wonderful lady.
The person then hides behind her supposed depression to avoid a custodial sentence, and checks herself in to a luxury clinic! Arrangements are then made to have letters sent by psychiatrists to say that being given a custodial sentence would have an adverse effect on her mental health. The judge decides that she shall be checked back into the clinic and banned from driving for five years from the day she leaves the clinic, so apparently she is above the law. As so rightly said in previous posts money talks. This may be so, but has she thought about the suffering and grief that she has caused to the family and friends of Brenda? The depression and counselling that some of them have had to have, the medication they are having to take to overcome their depression, they are sensible they do not drive knowing the affect medication has on their concentration, causing the loss of employment.
Where will this person be spending Christmas, where will she be when there are family celebrations, I think we can all guess. A miraculous recovery?
Us? well we shall be looking at the empty chair at the table, the missing smile.
RIP Brenda we love and miss you so much x
Brenda was a loving and muched loved lady, who inspired all of those that she met. She was a wife and mother, my sister in law, my husband's sister and auntie to my children, a good and dear friend to so many. It is an absolute travesty that happened in the court room today, a person who thought they were above the law, knowingly chose to drink alcohol which mixed with the alleged medication that she was taking and then went out and used a car as a lethal weapon. The result the death of a wonderful lady. The person then hides behind her supposed depression to avoid a custodial sentence, and checks herself in to a luxury clinic! Arrangements are then made to have letters sent by psychiatrists to say that being given a custodial sentence would have an adverse effect on her mental health. The judge decides that she shall be checked back into the clinic and banned from driving for five years from the day she leaves the clinic, so apparently she is above the law. As so rightly said in previous posts money talks. This may be so, but has she thought about the suffering and grief that she has caused to the family and friends of Brenda? The depression and counselling that some of them have had to have, the medication they are having to take to overcome their depression, they are sensible they do not drive knowing the affect medication has on their concentration, causing the loss of employment. Where will this person be spending Christmas, where will she be when there are family celebrations, I think we can all guess. A miraculous recovery? Us? well we shall be looking at the empty chair at the table, the missing smile. RIP Brenda we love and miss you so much x IreneBurden

10:19pm Fri 6 Jul 12

stuartgore says...

The class system alive and well in 2012.
The class system alive and well in 2012. stuartgore

11:16am Sat 7 Jul 12

The Mayor says...

odd how her "depression" didn't stop her driving long distances or drinking. As the posters above say this should have been a lengthy prison sentence, money buys "justice" it seems.
odd how her "depression" didn't stop her driving long distances or drinking. As the posters above say this should have been a lengthy prison sentence, money buys "justice" it seems. The Mayor

11:57am Sun 8 Jul 12

mochran says...

Money is all that matters in this country not justice
Money is all that matters in this country not justice mochran

6:20am Thu 12 Jul 12

Hillus says...

How this drunken woman can avoid a lengthy prison sentence beggars belief. There's something very wrong in the state of Britain.
How this drunken woman can avoid a lengthy prison sentence beggars belief. There's something very wrong in the state of Britain. Hillus

6:24am Thu 12 Jul 12

Hillus says...

Your comment has been accepted. It will be visible on the site shortly (Note: during busy periods, it may take as long as thirty seconds for it to appear)

The above, which follows every comment made is childish and very annoying. Please stop using it!
Your comment has been accepted. It will be visible on the site shortly (Note: during busy periods, it may take as long as thirty seconds for it to appear) The above, which follows every comment made is childish and very annoying. Please stop using it! Hillus

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