A SPEEDING driver who killed a 64-year-old woman as she was crossing the road claims he was not warned he was likely to be facing an immediate prison sentence.
And in what a judge branded ‘a display of cowardice’ on the day he had been due to be sentenced, Florin Firulescu said he wanted to ‘vacate’ his guilty plea.
Firulescu had originally pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to causing the death of Prakash Kaur in December 2018 by dangerous driving.
His trial was not due to take place until May this year, but at a further hearing in November, Firulescu (50) of Brandon Lane, Coventry, changed his plea to guilty.
The charge follows a tragic collision in Foleshill Road, Coventry, at just after 4pm on December 14, 2018, when 64-year-old Mrs Kaur was struck by Firulescu’s blue Subaru.
Firulescu was arrested at the scene, where Mrs Kaur died of her injuries, and the court had heard the issue in the trial was to have been whether his driving was dangerous.
Beth Crocker, defending, had explained after his original not guilty plea that Firulescu did not accept he was speeding, and did not accept the prosecution’s calculation of his speed.
“He says the car was suffering mechanical difficulties, and he was on his way to the garage, and he says it could not have reached that speed,” Miss Crocker added.
But in November his barrister Ian Speed, who had asked for the charge to be put to him again, said the guilty plea had been entered on the full facts of the prosecution case.
The case was adjourned until this month for a report to be prepared on Firulescu, who was warned by Judge Peter Cooke that he should ‘expect an immediate custodial sentence.’
But at the resumed hearing, with members of Mrs Kaur’s family in the public gallery, Mr Speed said that Firulescu had indicated he wanted to change his plea back to one of not guilty.
“He maintains he’s been misled throughout by myself, the original interpreter and the probation officer.”
Mr Speed explained that Firulescu wanted the case to be adjourned so he could instruct new solicitors and a new barrister in order to make an application to vacate his guilty plea.
Judge Cooke asked Firulescu: “Is it really your intention to say you have been pressurised improperly into entering a guilty plea?”
Firulescu, through a Romanian interpreter, said: “I was promised something completely different when I pleaded guilty. I was not told I would be going to prison.”
The judge pointed out: “I told you, you would be going to prison.” But Firulescu claimed: “That was not interpreted to me.”
So Judge Cooke told Mr Speed: “I am going to adjourn this matter for him to pursue what I expect to be an utterly misguided attempt to vacate his plea.
“If he wants to accuse you of all sorts of improper conduct, he’s going to want fresh representation.”
He said the issue of whether Firulescu should be allowed to vacate his guilty plea should be dealt with by another judge.
But he commented: “I’m not going to play any further part in it, but I am convinced what is happening here is a display of cowardice in the face of what’s coming.
“He should consider whether what he’s about to embark on is good for him, good for his wife, and good for the family of the lady he ploughed his car into on a zebra crossing.”
Granting Firulescu bail, Judge Cooke imposed a condition of residence at his home address, with a 7pm-7am curfew, and a condition that he does not apply for any travel documents.
He said he believed the ‘immensely regrettable turn of events’ was ‘an extreme example of cold feet,’ and told Firulescu: “I want you to think long and hard about your position before you appear before my colleague.”