A Co Down woman who never held a full licence or passed a driving test has been spared prison for causing the death of a close friend by careless driving.
Judge Sandra Crawford told Linda Green that there were “exceptional circumstances’’ which allowed her to suspend a six-month prison term for a period of 18 months.
Green, 59, of Kestrel Link, Ballyhalbert, outside Newtownards, had pleaded guilty in December to causing the death of Roberta Hamilton almost two years ago by careless driving.
The court had previously heard that Green had been insured as a driver with a full licence for 13 years even though she had never sat a test.
At the time of the crash two years ago she was a learner driver but had failed to display ‘L’ plates on the vehicle.
Judge Crawford yesterday told Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Newtownards, that on February 10, 2015, Green was driving her Peugeot car on the Springvale Road in the direction of Ballyhalbert.
When she attempted to turn right on to the Nursery Road, she was struck by an oncoming Volkswagen Golf travelling in the opposite direction towards Ballywalter.
“Tragically, your friend and passenger Mrs Roberta Hamilton, sustained fatal injuries. The emergency services arrived quickly on the scene and Mrs Hamilton was taken to hospital,’’ said Judge Crawford.
The 75-year-old victim had sustained multiple injuries including fractures of her ribs and fractures to her spine as a result of the crash.
“However, despite medical intervention, Mrs Hamilton died later that evening from her injuries.
“A driver executing a manoeuvre, turning right across an oncoming vehicle, bears a heavy responsibility and duty to ensure that the road is clear.
“You failed in this duty and although he was travelling at a very considerable speed the driver of the oncoming vehicle had no opportunity to take evasive action.”
The judge said Green’s mitigating factors were her previous clear criminal record, her plea of guilty, her “genuine remorse’’, her relationship with the victim who was a close friend, the psychological impact on her from the crash which left her suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, her physical health problems and her stable family background.
The judge told Green that the starting point for sentence was nine months in custody, but said she was reducing that to six months as a result of her guilty plea and her mitigating factors.
Green was also disqualified from driving for a period of two-and-a-half years.