Essex bus driver avoids jail for causing death of elderly passenger after route row in Harlow

John Childs, 73, died after falling out of a bus in Harlow in 2019.
John Childs, 73, died after falling out of a bus in Harlow in 2019. Credit: Essex Police

A bus driver who caused the death of an elderly passenger by careless driving has avoided jail.

Christopher Balding, 39, had admitted causing the death of 73-year-old John Childs by careless driving in Harlow, Essex in 2019, but was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

Mr Childs lost his balance and fell through the open door of the stopped bus after Balding failed to apply the handbrake, Chelmsford Crown Court had previously been told.

Sentencing him on Friday, Judge David Turner QC handed Balding an 18-month community order with conditions, and put six points on his licence.

The court previously heard how Mr Childs, who used a walking stick, remonstrated with Balding after the bus did not stop where he was expecting it to due to roadworks in Howard Way in Harlow.

The vehicle stopped “several hundred feet further along” the road, Chelmsford Crown Court was told.

Michael Shaw, prosecuting, said Mr Childs rose from his seat and appeared “not best pleased the bus had not stopped at the stop he hoped it would”.

He said the doors opened and, with Mr Childs standing in the gangway speaking to the driver, the bus “lurched” forward, prompting the passenger to “topple” out of the door.

The pensioner suffered a brain injury in the incident on May 3, 2019 and died in hospital on May 12.

'Foot may have come off brake'

Mr Shaw told the court the handbrake was not applied when the bus stopped. He added the driver’s foot came off the brake, causing the bus to move forwards, which prompted Mr Childs to lose his balance.

He added that when the bus moved forward, Balding “reapplied the foot brake immediately, which caused the bus to suddenly jolt to a stop”.

The court heard a police interview from Balding, who said he had seen Mr Childs on several occasions before and “never had any issues with him”.

He said he did not remember using the handbrake, and suggested his foot may have come off the brake as he turned towards Mr Childs.

He was handed an 18-month community order with conditions, which include he completes 25 days’ rehabilitation activity requirement, must undertake 200 hours of unpaid work and have his licence endorsed with six points.