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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Lecturer jailed over crash deaths
accident scene
Three people died in the accident on the M1
A man who caused an accident in which three people died has been jailed for 90 days and banned from driving for three years.

Dr Thomas Munch-Petersen lost control of his car while searching for a mint in a jacket draped over his passenger seat.

Thomas Munch-Petersen
Thomas Munch-Petersen: "Haunted by the accident"
Two men and a pregnant woman died in the pile-up caused by his car veering from the overtaking lane of the motorway.

Munch-Petersen, a university lecturer at University College, London, was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving in July.

The mother of one of the victims wrote a letter to the court pleading for the lecturer to be spared jail.

The accident happened on the M1 in Derbyshire in April last year.

Munch-Petersen was travelling at 70mph in the overtaking lane when his G-reg Volvo swerved out of control and into the slow lane.

It hit a lorry, which then careered back across the road, taking the Volvo with it.

Both vehicles went through the central reservation and into the path of the oncoming traffic.

Throughout life, we all make mistakes. Most pass without future incident. A few have tragic results

Valerie Kempton
Darren Kempton, 32 and his pregnant girlfriend Jenny Lancaster, 25, from Milton Keynes, were killed when their car hit the lorry.

Martin Parker, 44 of Harrogate, Yorkshire also died after his car hit the wreckage.

His wife and 15-year-old daughter escaped serious injury.

Derby Crown Court heard that Munch-Petersen, a university lecturer was travelling from London to Leeds to carry out research when the accident happened.

He told the court: "It was a grave misjudgement. I have no positive recollection of taking my eyes off the road, but I accept I must have done."

Judge Granville Styler said he was not imposing a longer sentence for a variety of reasons including a plea from the family of the victims that Munch-Petersen should not be sent to jail.

'Tragic mistake'

Part of a letter written by the mother of Darren Kempton was read out by the judge.

"My family and I feel that to send Mr Petersen to prison would serve no purpose at all." Mrs Kempton had written.

"This man and his family have suffered enough. Lives have been broken without further adding to the tally.

"Throughout life, we all make mistakes. Most pass without future incident. A few have tragic results."

But despite the letter Judge Styler said he had no option but to jail the lecturer.

"I regret to say that because your dangerous driving resulted in the deaths of three people, in my judgment it is so serious that no other sentence is appropriate."

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"The judge said the accident was so serious he had to jail Peterson"
See also:

24 Jul 01 | UK
Death crash man faces jail
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