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  1. ITV Report

Hit-and-run driver jailed for seven years and four months for causing death of 10-year-old Melissa Tate

  • Video report by ITV News Reporter Damon Green

A man who admitted killing a 10-year-old girl in a hit-and-run crash has been jailed for seven years and four months.

Connor Marsden ploughed into Melissa Tate on a road in Newcastle in September.

She died in hospital from her injuries.

Marsden, 24, of Kenton, in the city, had previously pleaded guilty to death by dangerous driving, causing death while uninsured, and causing death by driving without a licence.

Marsden has also admitted summary charges of failure to stop, failure to report an accident to the police, driving otherwise in accordance with a licence and driving without insurance.

Melissa's parents, Michael Tate and Kimberley Wilson, had earlier paid tribute to their daughter, saying she had "a heart of gold".

They also revealed that Melissa had gone on to save the lives of other children after the family made the difficult decision to donate her organs.

  • Melissa Tate's mum gives emotional statement outside court

Speaking to reporters outside court, Ms Wilson said no jail term will be enough for her family.

She said: "Not a day goes past that we don’t think of Melissa or think of the beautiful, successful woman we knew she would grow in to.

"We will never see her get married or have children and that still tears us apart every single day. We will never get over that pain.

"No parent should have to outlive their child and no parent should ever have to bury their child."

  • The moment Connor Marsden was told his actions caused the death of Melissa Tate

CCTV footage showed Marsden had drunk two pints of snakebite - lager and cider - in a local club an hour before the fatal collision with Melissa in Kenton.

He broke down in tears when the arresting officer told him that the much-loved schoolgirl had died.

Judge Amanda Rippon jailed him then praised the little girl's mother who made a moving victim impact statement.

Addressing the family about the sentence, the judge said: "I know it's not enough, it's all I can do.

"They have my very best wishes."

Melissa died in hospital a day after being struck by the uninsured, unlicensed driver's Renault Kangoo in Hillsview Avenue.

Melissa with her sister, Lili. Credit: Family handout

Mark Guiliani, prosecuting, said he was travelling at around 47mph in a 20mph zone, was aware he had hit the girl and fled the city, hiding in Easington, County Durham.

Mr Guiliani said a witness saw Marsden afterwards, saying: "He described him as off his face, incoherent."

Another witness, a member of the Institute of Advanced Drivers, saw the van approaching the scene of the collision and recalled Marsden was driving "like a maniac".

The witness said a group of children was clearly visible at the side of the road.

Mr Guiliani said Melissa was playing with friends and was knocked down as she tried to cross the narrow, residential street, about 150 metres away from her home.

She died in hospital the next day - her sister's sixth birthday.

Melissa Tate, with her father Michael. Credit: Family handout

Police arrested Marsden in Easington 20 hours after the collision. He refused a police request to provide a blood sample.

The court was told had he been arrested within 18 hours, he could have been compelled to provide a sample.

Marsden previously also admitted causing death by driving while uninsured and unlicensed, both of which relate to Melissa's death.

He also entered guilty pleas to charges of failing to stop after a road accident, failing to report an accident, driving while uninsured, and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.

Brian Hegarty, defending, said Marsden "recognises that his actions were completely inexcusable".

He also said: "He is aware his actions in leaving the scene were an appalling act of cowardice and self-preservation.

"His actions contrast starkly with the selfless wish of Melissa to donate her organs and they have given hope and relieved the suffering endured by other children."

Melissa was a junior volunteer with Northumbria Police. Credit: Northumbria Police

Her mother Kimberley Wilson made a victim statement about her daughter, who was a volunteer Mini Police cadet who proudly wore her uniform.

She said: "I will never see Melissa grow up to be the beautiful, successful young woman we know she would have been.

"No parent should ever outlive their child. No parent should ever bury their child.

"I never thought it would happen to us."

Mr Guiliani said Melissa's father Michael Tate described her as a "beautiful, smart, funny, cheeky, laid back girl with a heart of gold and not a bad bone in her body".

Mr Giuliani said the family could not forgive, explaining: "To have left the scene and fled the area to hide from the police after failing to take any action is unforgivable."

Judge Rippon told Marsden: "If you had been complying with the law, you would not have been driving.

"If you had been complying with the speed limit, Melissa would be alive today."

The judge appeared to gather her emotions as she considered the devastating "collateral damage" to Melissa's loved ones, including her sister "who will never be able to celebrate her birthday without remembering her sister who died that same day".