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Two-year term for crash death wife

A woman who killed her husband in a car crash after grabbing the handbrake at nearly 60mph during a drunken row has been jailed for two years.

Caroline Meeking, 45, and her husband Alan, 49, were on their way home to Somerset from a day's drinking in Bridport, Dorset, on August 30 2010 when they crashed into another vehicle.

Meeking, of Park Barn Lane, Ashill, Ilminster, Somerset, denied the single charge of manslaughter but was convicted following a trial at Bristol Crown Court in November. She showed little emotion as she was led away to begin her sentence.

Passing sentence, Judge Neil Ford QC, the Recorder of Bristol, said: "In my judgment, this case is so serious I must pass an immediate custodial sentence. A suspended sentence or community order would not reflect the seriousness of the offending."

Judge Ford said that in passing sentence he took into account a pre-sentence report, a psychiatric report and statements from Mr Meeking's family. "I accept that you are genuinely remorseful for your actions. You have accepted responsibility for the accident, if not criminal responsibility," Judge Ford said.

"I do not accept what you said in evidence that you would have pulled on the handbrake even if you had not been drinking and I am also satisfied you exaggerated your husband's driving to support what you did. But your action was also wholly dangerous and by any assessment grossly irresponsible."

Rebecca Bradbury, defending, said Meeking had lost her "soulmate" and would live with the guilt for the rest of her life.

The couple, who had been together for nine years and married for 12 months, were arguing as they drove along the unlit A3088 at Montacute, near Yeovil, on the evening of August 30 2010.

Meeking grabbed the handbrake - forcing their silver Ford Escort into a spin and heading side-on at speed into the path of a car coming in the opposite direction. The driver of the other car, a green Rover 620, had no time to react and the two cars collided shortly before 10.30pm.

Despite wearing his seat belt, Mr Meeking suffered catastrophic injuries and was declared dead at the scene by medics. The other motorist escaped without serious injury.

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