Family’s grief and Norfolk judge’s lament as South Lopham drink driver sentenced over death

A convicted drink driver was sent to prison for eight years yesterday for killing a bright businesswoman who was visiting Norfolk to celebrate a friend's wedding.

It is the third time this week a drink or drug drive death has come before Norwich's courts.

The county's most senior judge, Peter Jacobs, told driver Amanda Brierley, who had tried to flee the crash scene, that she had given a life sentence to the friend's and family of the victim, Claire McKeown.

Judge Jacobs, the Recorder of Norwich, lamented that motorists were ignoring drink drive warnings.

He said: 'One wonders how many more times. It seems as though we will be confronted with these incidents as long as I sit. People like this defendant will not listen.'

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Unemployed Amanda Brierley drank two bottles of wine on July 1 before getting into her silver BMW seven series at the White Hart Pub in Roydon to drive the two miles to her home on The Street, South Lopham.

As the 47-year-old drove off she almost knocked a pub worker off his bicycle, according to one account Norwich Crown Court heard.

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With dusk falling she forgot to turn on her lights and almost hit a black Fiat Panda driving in the opposite direction.

One kilometre into her journey, with her lights now on Brierley, who had two previous convictions for drink driving, ploughed into the back of a Skoda Fabia which had stopped on the straight road to turn into Blue Pump Farm at 9.45pm.

In the car, waiting for a gap in the traffic, were four young professionals from Liverpool.

One couple, Jessica Trigg and James Monroe sat in the back, while Simon McKeown drove with his wife Claire next to him.

Jessica and Claire had been best friends since meeting on the first day of secondary school.

Brierley, travelling at least 40mph, appeared to not notice them when she crushed the silver Skoda, pushing it along the road.

A police report said there was plenty of time and distance for Brierley to stop and witnesses said it was a fine summer evening.

One Mercedes driver who witnessed the crash said to his wife: 'That car is not going to stop.'

Judge Jacobs slammed Brierley's 'truly disgraceful' behaviour after the crash.

According to witness statements, read out in court by Chris Youell, prosecuting, the drinker told passers-by she was a nurse and they should not move the crash victims.

She reportedly tried to flee the scene, pleaded for a hug, and when stopped by other drivers said: 'What about me. Does anyone care about my problems?'

One woman took Brierley, who witnesses said was wobbly on her feet and smelt of alcohol, into her car. While they waited for police to arrive Brierley tried to grab the woman's car keys and drive off.

The next day Mrs McKeown, a rising star in Liverpool's creative arts scene, died from her injuries in West Suffolk Hospital.

Mr Youell said the crash was 'unsurvivable' for the 32-year-old.

The couple in the back were severely injured.

Miss Trigg broke her pelvis and arm and was put in a wheelchair.

Mr Monroe fractured his skull and broke his ribs and back. The young couple moved to a bungalow because they could no longer live in their terraced home.

Brierley, who admitted causing death by dangerous driving, was found with 98 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath - the limit is 35 micrograms.

Ian James, mitigating, said his client did not want to make any excuses, but she had not intended to hurt anybody.

Disqualifying Brierley from driving for eight years alongside the prison sentence, Judge Jacobs said: 'Nothing I can say or do can remedy this situation. Even if this women were locked up for the rest of her would not bring back this delightful young lady.'

Speaking after the case, deputy chief crown prosecutor for the eastern area, Andrew Baxter told the EDP: 'Amanda Brierley knew the dangers of drink driving. This was a tragic waste of a young life.

Our thoughts are with Simon, her husband and her other relatives and friends, many of whom I have met and who have conducted themselves with great courage and dignity at this difficult time.'

Steve Matthews, from Norfolk Police's Serious Collision Investigation Team said: 'Claire was a young woman with a bright future which was cruelly taken away from her.

'Such a sentence of eight years imprisonment imposed yesterday should send a clear warning, particularly at this time of year, of the consequences of drink driving.'

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