A JUDGE has blasted a taxi driver who ran over a pensioner while he was looking at his mobile phone.

Tujmal Akram was so intent on staring at the screen of the phone on his lap that he did not notice 78-year-old Mildred Florence crossing Thicketford Road, Tonge Moor.

Jailing Akram for two years at Bolton Crown Court, Judge Timothy Clayson slammed the driver for looking at the phone and wearing earphones to listen to the device. He said: “This was a persistent course of bad driving during which you deliberately chose to be distracted by your mobile phone, the situation being made even more dangerous by the use of earphones.” He also banned him from driving for two-and-a-half years.

The court heard that Mrs Florence, who had been returning home after playing bingo, suffered a shattered lower leg and broken ribs. The once independent widow is now unable to stand and has had to move into a care home.

Mrs Florence’s son, Ian Fields, speaking after the sentencing, said he feels no malice towards 32-year-old Akram, but says the case highlights the dangers of being distracted by mobile phones and hopes it will deter other drivers from using them.

“I would urge people not to give into the temptation to answer their phones. It is just not worth it. It can change people’s lives dramatically,” he said.

“This man was distracted by his phone and I understand this is very commonplace in today’s society.

“But I would ask people to consider balancing the priority of contacting friends and family by mobile phone when that distraction can have such colossal, long lasting impact on many lives, not just one.”

The court heard how Akram, who drives for Moor Lane based Adams Taxis, had picked up two young people and an older woman from Bolton Station at 8.45pm on March 3.

But Lindsay Thomas, prosecuting, said that throughout the three-and-a-half-minute journey the passengers, 15-year-old Libby Jeffery and her 20-year-old brother Matthew Salvin, noticed Akram continually looking down at a mobile phone on his lap.

As the taxi turned into Thicketford Road the passengers, and the driver of a car behind, could clearly see an elderly woman using sticks crossing the road – but Akram was oblivious.

“Mr Salvin told the defendant three times to be careful to see the lady, but he says the defendant ignored him because he was on his phone,” said Mrs Thomas. “Because he didn’t see her, he did not break or take an evasive action until the collision had occurred,” she said.

Grandmother Mrs Florence hit the windscreen of the car and spent five weeks in hospital and had to have a metal plate inserted in her leg from knee to ankle as well as treatment for several fractured ribs.

She has been unable to return to the Ecclestone Avenue terraced home she has lived in for 58 years and the proud, independent pensioner is now cared for at The Old Vicarage care home on Ivy Bank Road.

At the scene of the collision Akram, of Ernest Street, Deane, initially denied having used his phone, telling police: “The lady walked straight into the road.”

But he later pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

His phone revealed he had been accessing Google Maps during the journey and may have been reading text messages, although he did not make a phone call until after the collision.

Andrew Nuttall, defending, said Akram was “utterly remorseful. He said: “He accepts that he was wholly wrong in using his phone. His recollection is that he was trying to turn the thing off. He accepts the Crown’s case that he must have been fiddling with the phone for longer than he believed at the time.”

He stressed that Akram, a married father-of-one with no previous convictions, had worked hard as a taxi driver since coming to the UK in 2001.

“He is a hard-working, decent man who never intended to cause any harm,” said Mr Nuttall.

Mrs Florence’s son told how the collision has had a profound effect on her — she is now wheelchair bound and had difficulty with her short term memory.

“She longs to stand and take the five or six steps in her room to close the door herself and the thing she misses more than anything is she would love to get a hug from one or other of us while standing,” he said.

Mrs Florence, a former textile worker, who was also employed in engineering and catering, had lived alone since the death of her husband Gordon 17 years ago and enjoyed twice weekly trips to play bingo at nearby St Augustine’s Court.

She was on her way home from a bingo session when she was struck.

“This has had major consequences, not only for my mum, but for the driver and his family,” said Mr Fields.

Since the collision Mr Fields has visited the taxi passengers, who rushed to Mrs Florence’s aid.

“They didn’t know my mum but I am grateful for what they did for her,” he said.