Pensioner who mowed down toddler had been warned not to drive just weeks earlier

Poppy-Arabella Clarke was killed as she walked to nursery with her mother
Poppy-Arabella Clarke was killed as she walked to nursery with her mother Credit: PA

A pensioner who mowed down a three-year-old girl weeks after being told to stop driving because of his poor eyesight has been jailed for four years.

Poppy-Arabella Clarke was killed when John Place, 73, ran a red light at a pedestrian crossing and ploughed into her and her mother.

The little girl, who had been on her way to nursery near her home in Sutton Coldfield, suffered catastrophic injuries and died later in hospital.

Place, who had ignored an optician’s warning not to get behind the wheel, was not even wearing his glasses at the time of the accident.

Oblivious to what he had done, he only stopped when when  another motorist who had seen what had happened deliberately veered into his path.

As he was jailed for four years at Birmingham Crown Court, Poppy's heartbroken parents called for the law to be changed requiring medical professionals to report people unfit to drive to the DVLA.

John Place, 72, had been warned by two opticians not to drive Credit: West Midlands Police/PA

In a victim impact statement Phil Clarke, 46, and his wife, Rachel, 42, who was seriously injured in the accident, said they had been left with a life sentence without their little girl.

The couple said they could not bear to have any more children following the loss of their beloved daughter.

Mrs Clarke told the court: "I once had a daughter, a little shadow who was always by my side, a little girl who I know loved me.

"I know she loved me because she told me and showed me every day. She loved me whole-heartedly for three-and-a-half years. She had captivated everyone with her beaming smile.

"Mr Place violently extinguished the light she gave to all by fracturing her skull. The actions of Mr Place violently stole my daughter's life from her."

The court heard that Place had been told by two optometrists that he was not fit to drive, but despite understanding the warnings had chosen to ignore the advice.

Poppy-Arabella's parents said their daughter's life had been stolen by Place Credit: PA

Judge Simon Drew QC told Place that his stubborn refusal to heed medical advice had resulted in the death of a little girl.

The judge said: "You had been told in clear terms that even wearing your glasses you were no longer fit to drive.

"Two separate people had told you this, one sat you down and explained that was the position. You were not happy with that and argued with that advice.

"You said you were going to carry on driving until your wife retired in September. That was a terrible decision that has had tragic consequences."

The family's lawyer, Richard Langton, of Slater and Gordon, said: "A lasting legacy would be Poppy-Arabella's law, requiring any medical professional aware of a person's inability to drive safely to report them to the DVLA so that their licence is withdrawn."

Phil and Rachel Clarke have called for a change in the law to force medical professionals to report unfit drivers Credit: Michael Scott/Caters News

After the case, Detective Sergeant Paul Hughes, from West Midlands Police, said: "This is an absolutely tragic case and Poppy-Arabella's parents continue to suffer enormously from their loss. Our thoughts remain with them.

"Place should not have been driving that day as quite simply his vision was severely impaired.

"The consequences of his decision to get behind the wheel despite this have been catastrophic.

"I hope that this case sends out a message to all drivers that you have a personal responsibility to heed medical advice and to ensure you are fit to get behind the wheel."

John Place ran a red light at a pedestrian crossing Credit: Caters News Agency

A spokesperson for Brake, the road safety charity, said: "This is an awful case, and our hearts go out to the family of Poppy-Arabella Clarke.

"Tragically, poor eyesight can be deadly, and every driver has a personal responsibility to ensure that they are fit to drive.

"This terrible case has highlighted why we need robust procedures in place to make sure that older drivers are not putting themselves and others in serious danger.

"Brake calls for the government to make eyesight tests compulsory every time a driver renews their licence - which is every three years over the age of 70.

"We also recommend that older drivers visit their GP and have sight and hearing tests at least annually, or sooner if they notice a problem."