An ex-children’s TV presenter has been jailed for nine years after causing an eight-car pile-up which killed two people.
Paul Ballard - who starred on GMTV’s programme Diggit from 1998 to 2002 with Fearne Cotton - admitted causing the deaths of Eileen Haskell and schoolteacher Richard Trezise by dangerous driving at a previous hearing in July this year.
The Old Bailey heard on Wednesday (11 August) that Ballard had been driving within the 30mph limit until suffering a seizure and accelerating to up to 104mph in the seconds before the crash, which happened last year.
Ballard had taken a “significant amount” of cocaine and was driving with his own son, who was then 12, in the passenger seat of his Volkswagen Golf.
The court heard there was “no evidence” to suggest that the Class A drug had caused the crash or the seizure, but Ballard had not notified his GP or the DVLA about his fits.
But just who is Paul Ballard? And what happened?
Here is everything you need to know.
Who is Paul Ballard?
Born in 1982 in Essex, 39-year old Paul Ballard is a television presenter and stage actor best known by his nickname 'Des' as the co-presenter of Saturday morning children's television programme Diggit between 1998 and 2002.
Ballard made his TV debut in 1995, playing a trick or treater who beat up Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson in an episode of Bottom, before becoming a co-presenter of the Disney Club in the mid 1990s.
After a change in the show's format, he presented a new Sunday morning slot called Roadhog, where he would take a Volkswagen Camper Van decorated with ears and orange spots on the road to viewers’ homes and schools.
In April 1998, Ballard and Fearne Cotton launched a new interactive Disney slot as part of GMTV called Diggit, a show with which he continued with through until 2002.
The victims were pronounced dead following the collision on Squirrels Heath Road, Romford, Essex, at around 2pm on 20 February 2020.
Haskell was in her car, stationary at traffic lights, when the vehicle was hit at speed from behind, while Tresize was waiting at a bus stop when he was struck by a car.
London Fire Brigade had to cut a number of people free from their cars and six patients were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Ballard’s medical records showed he had had three seizures prior to the collision – two in 2016 and one in 2019 – and had admitted being addicted to cocaine.
Prosecutor Edward Franklin said Ballard “flagrantly ignored the risk” of driving when he had had seizures without warning before, with one previous incident resulting in him falling down a flight of stairs and waking in a pool of his own blood.
Ballard, from Theydon Bois, in Essex, denied two further charges of causing death by driving while uninsured.
Judge Richard Marks QC said the accident Ballard caused could have been much worse, saying: “The fact that other individuals were not killed or seriously injured is entirely fortuitous.”
Speaking about the victims’ bereaved relatives, Judge Marks said: “Each of them is utterly devastated by the loss that they have sustained.
“It goes without saying that no sentence that I impose upon you will seem adequate to any of them or will seem capable of compensating them for their absolutely devastating loss.”
Judge Marks said Ballard’s prison sentence will be followed by an 11-and-a-half year disqualification from driving.
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