A Belfast woman who caused a woman’s death when she caused a three vehicle road traffic collision has been put on probation for a year.
Sentencing Michelle Crooks at Newtownards Magistrates Court on Wednesday, District Judge Mark Hamill told the 52-year-old he hoped the order will “help you get through this” while also imposing a 16 month driving ban.
He commented that given the fact the PPS opted to prosecute the case in the petty sessions where the maximum sentence is six months, to send Crooks to jail for what would be a matter of weeks “would be an utterly pointless exercise”.
“In fact it would do more harm than good,” said the judge who highlighted that “any of us who hold a driving licence could be sitting where she is sitting, any of us can be guilty of a moments lapse of attention.”
At an earlier hearing Crooks, a grandmother of two from Southland Dale in the east of the city, entered a guilty plea to causing the death of Yvonne Jess by driving carelessly on October 14 last year.
Today a prosecuting lawyer described how Crooks overshot the end of the lane at McKee’s farm shop on the Holywood Road in Ards, striking the passenger side of a car where Mrs Jess was sitting and causing that vehicle to crash into the path of an oncoming van.
The car in which Mrs Jess was a passenger ended up on its roof and while taken to hospital, she sadly died from the injuries she sustained.
The lawyer told the court that when she was spoken to by police, Crooks admitted that “she had hit the accelerator instead of the brake as she approached the end of the lane.”
Defence counsel Conan Rea said there was “very few charges in the criminal calendar” which would result in a grandmother with a clear record standing before a judge “and as you quite rightly point out, it could happen to any of us”.
“It’s a tragic set of circumstances,” said Mr Rea, adding that it was only recently and after undergoing counselling that Crooks had gotten behind the wheel of a car again but even then the journeys were short.
Sentencing Crooks, who appeared in person in court, DJ Hamill said while the case “is a tragedy from everybody’s perspective,” to send a woman with a clear record and who pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to jail “would be completely wrong”.