20 Aug Driver whose passenger died in A47 Acle Straight crash is jailed – despite plea for leniency from victim’s partner
Amanda Jacobs, 57, drowned after the car driven by her carer Lydia Chiddle flipped upside down into a water-filled dyke along the A47 Acle Straight.
Miss Chiddle tried in vain to save Miss Jacobs, who had Huntington’s Disease, a hereditary disorder of the central nervous system, and she only survived herself due to a pocket of air near the driver’s pedals in the car.
Miss Jacobs, known as Mandy, had lived in Intwood Road, Cringleford with her 70-year-old partner Arthur Palmer and they had been together for 40 years.
And Mr Palmer took the unusual step of pleading for the defendant to be spared jail as he addressed Norwich Crown Court yesterday.
“Lydia was almost like a daughter really,” he said. “Sometimes Mandy would spend a whole week with me and not say a single word, but towards the end she and Lydia would have conversations.
“Prison would probably destroy her.
“I just hope and pray the judge can find it in his heart not to send her to prison.”
Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said witnesses saw the car driven by Miss Chiddle “weaving and drifting” in the road before it crashed into an oncoming vehicle.
Tests showed she had cannabis in her system, with 3.4microgrammes of the drug per litre of blood.
The legal limit for cannabis under new drug driving legislation introduced in March this year is two microgrammes per litre of blood.
Miss Chiddle admitted a single count of causing death by dangerous driving.
Michael Clare, mitigating, said Miss Chiddle, 31, of Lowestoft Road, Gorleston, was a “particularly close friend” of the deceased and had been deeply affected by her death.
A written statement from her mother said that since the accident she suffered panic attacks, could not sleep, cried in the night, could not have her bedroom door closed as she felt trapped. She was unable to shower as she was afraid of the water or eat solid food for fear of choking.
Judge Stephen Holt said he was moved by Mr Palmer’s evidence, but that he would be “failing in [his] public duty” if he spared Miss Chiddle jail.
Addressing Miss Chiddle, he said: “[Mr Palmer] described you as being still in shock, you and he have helped each other and I was deeply affected by that, but I have a public duty.
“These cases are so difficult for all concerned.
“In my view I would be failing in my public duty [if I gave a suspended sentence].
“Those who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs have to expect an immediate sentence of imprisonment.”
He accepted that Miss Chiddle still suffered physical and psychological effects after the tragedy on October 29 last year.
But he said: “One of the effects of driving under the effect of cannabis is a lack of steering control and increased weaving, and that’s exactly what was witnessed.”
He sentenced her to 30 months in prison and a three year driving ban.
Miss Chiddle wept as she was led to the cells, as Mr Palmer confronted roads policing officers and said “are you happy now?”
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Palmer said: “Lydia is such a caring person.
“She could be out here doing a lot of good in the community.
“All this is going to do is mess her life up and that’s a second tragedy, an absolute tragedy.
“I feel really bad about it. I’m devastated.”
He said he would push for an inquest as he did not believe he had an accurate picture of what happened and wanted closure.
Sgt Andy Hood, from the Serious Collision Investigation Team, said: “Chiddle was under the influence of drugs while driving and her actions have resulted in the death of her passenger who was in her care.
“It is a minority of people who believe that they are fit to drive whilst under the influence of drugs, but as this case demonstrates, they are putting themselves and others at risk which cannot be acceptable.”
this news story was provided by Great Yarmouth Mercury