Young driver sentenced after she admitted causing head on crash at Great Ellingham

Norwich Crown Court. Photo: Adrian Judd. Norwich Crown Court. Photo: Adrian Judd.

Saturday, July 19, 2014
6:56 AM

A young driver was texting on her mobile phone moments before she was involved in a head on crash, which left the driver of the other car with life-changing injuries, a court heard.

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A 20 year-old woman has been sent to a young offender’s institution for 15 months and given a two year driving ban after she was involved in a head-on crash which left the driver of the on-coming vehicle with life-changing injuries and in a wheelchair. Norwich Crown Court was told the woman had been texting on her phone a minute before the crash. Lisa Cooper, 20, was seen driving in a “aggressive” manner for about 14 minutes before the crash on the B1077 at Great Ellingham, when she overtook a Mercedes van and was involved in a head on crash with Christine Venables, who was coming in the opposite direction, Norwich Crown Court heard.

The case prompted Norfolk police to warn drivers about the dangers of texting while behind the wheel.

Chris Youell, prosecuting, said before the crash, a witness observed Cooper driving in an “aggressive” manner as she had been closely following the van when she moved to overtake it in her Vauxhall Corsa.

He said she pulled out straight into the path of the oncoming vehicle being driven by Mrs Venables.

Mrs Venables and Cooper were both trapped in their vehicles and had to be cut free and Mrs Venables legs were badly smashed up in the crash. The Mercedes van was flipped on its side, but the driver was not seriously injured.

He said it took emergency services some time to safely cut Mrs Venables from her vehicle, so her husband was able to attend the crash scene to be at his wife’s side.

He said Cooper suffered a head injury and both had to be taken to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. Cooper, who also had serious injuries, was released after three weeks. Mrs Venables also had to stay in hospital and has since had to undergo three major operations on her legs and is still in a wheelchair.

He said that she will have to spend another year in a wheelchair before she can start to gain strength in her legs to try walking again.

Mr Youell said police accident investigator, PC Charlie Savage, found evidence Cooper had been texting about a minute before the crash.

Mr Youell said; “She was texting while driving, sending and receiving a number of texts as she was going along over the 14 minute period.”

However he said there was no evidence she was texting at the time she carried out the overtaking manoeuvre, or was speeding at the time of the collision.

But Mr Youell said investigations had shown that she had earlier sent a text saying “Driving fast lol (laugh out loud)”

Mr Youell said it showed she had not the most sensible approach to driving and texting and added: “No doubt she was not laughing after the collision.”

In an impact statement Mrs Venables said how the crash has had a huge impact on her and her family and she still has panic attacks about what happened.

She said she felt anger about the crash but said: “She now has to live with the consequences of her actions that day forever.”

Mrs Venables used to work as a housekeeper, but has been unable to work since the collision.

Cooper, who is now pregnant, of Henry Ward Road, Harleston, admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving, on October 18, last year.

Recorder Maureen Baker sent her to a young offenders institution for 15 months and imposed a two year driving ban. Recorder Baker said her actions had blighted both her life and that of her victim: “This was a piece of appalling driving. Two families have suffered because of your bad driving.”

She added: “A minute before the collision it seems you were texting someone.”

She said mercifully no one had been killed in the crash, and she said if that had been the case she would be going to custody for a very long time. Michael Clare, for Cooper, said she was truly sorry for what happened.

He said she was an inexperienced driver and had been called into work unexpectedly.

He said she suffered a brain injury and cannot remember anything about the crash, but accepted she was to blame.

He added that in these cases there are no winners and said: “Whatever I say will be of no consolation to Mrs Venables. The defendant accepts it was entirely her fault.”

Mrs Venables, who is still in a wheelchair attended court with her husband but did not want to comment any further.

However PC Savage, of the serious collision investigation team, said she hoped Mrs Venables could now move on with her life.

“This case, while tragic to all those involved, highlights the dangers of mobile phone use while driving.”

She added; “Mobile phones are a part of everyday life but should not be used while behind the wheel of any vehicle.”

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