A VAN driver whose carelessness caused the death of a Carlisle couple near the city centre has been jailed for 18 months and given a two-year ban.

Marc Large, 49, had denied wrongdoing but he was convicted after crown court trial, which heard detailed accounts of the collision on March 1, 2021, which caused the deaths of 62-year-old Terence Abson and his 56-year-old partner Georgina Lands.

Mr Abson was pronounced dead at the scene while Miss Lands died from her injuries seven days later.

The tragedy happened in West Tower Street when a Mercedes Sprinter van that was being driven by Large, a motorcycle trader, collided with the couple as they were crossing the road.

After the collision, Large told the police he had not seen the couple until “a split second” before it happened.

He denied that his driving was careless. During the trial, the jury was shown CCTV clips which recorded the collision.

In one, Mr Abson and Miss Lands were seen crossing the road, from Scotch Street, with the nearby vehicle traffic light on amber as the defendant’s van approached moments before impact.

Bystander Amy Rickerby, who was several metres away, heard a vehicle accelerate and then a bang, and she turned and walked toward the crossing before dialling 999. Sisters Abbie and Nicole Fontana were on board a bus on the opposite side of the road and saw the collision.

Hospital worker Abbie was two metres away.

She saw Mr Abson and Miss Lands start to cross the road “before the green man had come on”.

“As they crossed the road they were looking down at the same phone which one of them was holding,” she stated.

Abbie, who also heard an acceleration, remarked that the van was travelling at a “normal speed” “There was nothing to do with the speed that caused me concern,” she said.

“I can remember the driver was looking up because I could see his face quite clearly.

“The van then collided with [Mr Abson] and [Miss Lands]. She said that due to the couple looking at a phone they would not have seen the van coming. She recalled hearing the defendant after getting out of his van saying: “It’s not my fault.”

Yet another bystander, Rita Simpson, told the court she had heard Large say after the collision: “I wasn’t speeding,” but he had also added: “It’s someone’s mum and dad’.”

Prosecutor Tim Evans said that Large, of Gleneagles Road, Sunderland, had “ample time and opportunity to pay attention to what was on the road ahead of him”.

Motorcycle trader Large said in a prepared statement to police he was not distracted at the time, and that his mind was on his driving. “I really can’t explain how this collision occurred as I never saw the couple until a split second before I hit them,” he stated.

In court today, prosecutor Tim Evans said the defence had suggested that the angle of the sun in the sky may have affected the visibility of the couple from Large’s point of view as he drove up the hill past Debenham with his vehicle’s visor down.

“The crown say it would not,” said the barrister. The prosecution also argued that expert evidence suggested the defendant had five seconds in which he should have been able to see the couple, who were hit by the van near to the road’s centre line.

Judge Michael Fanning jailed the defendant for 18 months. The two-year driving ban was extended by nine months to reflect the time the defendant will spend behind bars.