No-test driver to be sentenced for friend’s crash death

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A Co Down woman who falsely told her insurance company she held a full driving licence will be sentenced next week for causing the death of a close friend by careless driving.

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Newry, heard that Linda Green had been insured as a driver with a full licence for 13 years even though she had never sat a test.

Green, 59, of Kestrel Link, Ballyhalbert, outside Newtownards, had pleaded guilty last month to causing the death of Roberta Hamilton almost two years ago by careless driving.

At the time of the crash Judge Sandra Crawford was told that Green held only a provisional licence and had failed to display ‘L’ plates on the vehicle.

Prosecution lawyer Laura Ivers told the court the charge was as a result of a road traffic collision on February 10, 2015 which “tragically resulted in the death of 75-year-old lady Roberta Hamilton who was a front seat passenger in the defendant’s yellow Peugeot 107 car”.

She said that around 4.30pm that day the Peugeot car was travelling along the Springvale Road in Ballyhalbert, a road governed by a 60mph speed limit, when Green attempted to turn right at the Nursery Road junction.

The driver of a silver Volkswagen Golf car heading out of Ballyhalbert village in the direction of Ballywalter noticed the Peugeot indicating to turn right.

“The defendant embarked on a right turn giving the driver of the Golf limited time to react. He saw the defendant’s car move slightly on to his lane,’’ said Ms Ivers.

“He applied the full brakes and steered his car to the left towards a gap. Despite taking evasive action, the vehicles collided and the Golf hit the grass bank and rolled on to its roof.’’

A third vehicle, a Toyota Hilux which was travelling behind the Peugeot car, was also hit.

The driver of the Toyota Hilux later told police that they believed the defendant was driving at 40mph at the time of impact and said the Volkswagen car “appeared out of nowhere’’, hitting the passenger side of the Peugeot and pushing it into the path of his vehicle.

Another motorist told police that the stretch of Springvale Road had “hidden dips, twists and turns’’ leading up to the Nursery Road junction

The driver of the Golf was assisted from his car while Mrs Hamilton was helped from the car by her friend Linda Green.

Said Ms Ivers: “It was clear that Mrs Hamilton had sustained serious injuries. She responded to paramedics at the scene. Emergency services were called to the scene and she was conveyed to hospital. But despite medical intervention her condition deteriorated and she died in hospital later that evening.

“She sustained multiple injuries including fractures of her ribs and fractures to her spine.’’

The driver of the Volkswagen Golf told police that he was travelling at around 60 mph at the time of the collision.

But Judge Crawford heard that forensic engineers who examined the scene estimated the Golf had been travelling at a speed of between 58 and 81mph at the time of impact.

When interviewed about the accident, Green said she had a provisional licence for two years and Mrs Hamilton supervised her, and on the day of the accident she had forgot to display her ‘L’ plates.

Green also admitted that she had driven the same day unaccompanied when she had collected Mrs Hamilton.

She said that when she reached the dip on the road at Nursery Junction she saw a couple of cars in the distance and the car that struck her Peugeot “must have been going faster than I thought’’.

At a second police interview, Green said she was familiar with the road and said “cars fly along it’’.

She also admitted that she had never taken driving lessons and had never sat a driving test.

The defendant also accepted that she had signed a false declaration on an insurance form back in 2002 that she was the holder of a full driving licence.

The prosecution lawyer said: “The court may feel that this is a case of momentary inattention on behalf of the defendant, but we say there was a disregard for other road users by not being a regulated driver at the time of the collison and was not regulated to be on the road.’’

Defence barrister Chris Holmes said Green wanted to apologise to Mrs Hamilton’s family for her death and accepts that at the time of the collision she was a learner driver but had not displayed her ‘L’ plates on the vehicle.

“This is a bad piece of road with people driving like eejits along it. It could be any one of us today or tomorrow.

“She should have not have turned right when she saw him coming. She should have stopped and that’s her fault and accepts responsibility for that.”

The judge said that she wished to read a number of reports handed into court and adjourned sentencing until next week.