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Carer jailed for morning after drink drive crash that killed 87-year-old

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: April 04, 2014

The scene of the collision in Pinhoe Road, Exeter. Photo: James Millar

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A morning after driver who didn't realise she was over the drink drive limit has been jailed for killing a pensioner who walked across the road in front of her car.

Carer April Gray had been out with friends the night before and deliberately taken a taxi home because she did not want to risk drinking and driving.

She was on her way to her first appointment of the day shortly before 10 am the next morning when her Peugeot car hit and killed 87-year-old Gwendoline Casley.

Gray had been distracted by a cyclist she was overtaking and did not spot Mrs Casley until it was too late as she crossed a busy road in Exeter to reach a bus stop.

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The 25-year-old was a devoted carer who loved working with elderly people and had never been in trouble before the crash.

She had just over two seconds to react when Mrs Casley crossed the road and stepped into the path of her car, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Gray was jailed for eight months after Judge Erik Salomonsen declared that it was necessary because of public concern about morning after drink driving.

The Judge told her:”You had consumed alcohol the previous evening and sensibly and responsibly taken a taxi home. After six hours sleep you collected your car and were driving to your first appointment at 10 am when this accident occurred at 9.43 am.

“Alcohol in the blood diminishes over time and it is clear that given the quantity you consumed the night before, sufficient time had not passed to have depleted it and you should not have been driving.

“It is important to note you did not drive deliberately in the knowledge you were over the limit and the evidence suggests strongly Mrs Casley walked across the road when it was unsafe for her to do so by reason of your approach.

“The evidence also suggests she did not pause before moving into the carriageway to let you pass and it is a tragic fact that there was a pedestrian crossing not far away.

“The defence have suggested you were distracted by a cyclist on your near side and this was a case of momentary inattention. The Crown cannot say the presence of alcohol caused that inattention.

“I take account of your occupation as a carer and your profound remorse and the positive good character which many people have spoken of.

“I have considered whether to suspend this sentence but there is so much public concern about the consequences of driving with excess alcohol.

“The public must be aware of the dangers of driving the morning following after a night out and must be aware it takes time if you drink to excess for the level to fall to one where it is safe to drive.

“This case illustrates the tragic consequences of failing to appreciate that fact, none better. For this reason I cannot suspend this sentence.”

Gray, of Bennett Square, Whipton, Exeter, admitted causing the death of Mrs Casley by careless driving while over the drink drive limit on the morning of December 19, 2012. Her reading was 44 microgrammes, a little above the limit of 35.

She was jailed for eight months and banned from driving for two years.

Mr Adrian Chaplin, prosecuting, said the accident happened on the morning of December 18, 2012, as Mrs Casley crossed from her home in Pinhoe Road to get a bus into town.

Gray had left her car at a friend’s house in nearby Hamlin Gardens after drinking on the previous night and walked back to it after about six hours sleep, believing she was under the limit.

She had only driven a few hundred wards before the accident which happened on her side of the road after Mrs Casley had already crossed the other carriageway and carried on into her path.

Mr Chaplin said police tests showed her speed was just over the 30 limit and the alcohol in her breath was 44 microgrammes. She told officers she had not seen the lady until it was too late to avoid her.

He said other road users had been aware of her presence because she was wearing a red coat.

He said:”Mrs Casley’s family have described the effect of her loss and their grief that her long life ended so close to home and in the circumstances it did.”

Mr Nicolas Gerasimidis, defending, presented the Judge with references from the old people who Gray looks after and said they will suffer more than her if she is jailed.

He said she has genuine remorse and had never intended to drink and drive and was not a regular drinker or party goer.

He said:”She was being responsible by parking her car up the night before when she knew she was going out to celebrate. She thought she had sufficient sleep and was seeking to drive in a safe manner.”

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  • BrixhamDes  |  April 07 2014, 1:29PM

    This story is tragic, there is a lesson to be learned here, Alcohol stays in your system for at least 14 hours after you take your last drink, my condolences to the family of Mrs Casley and also April Gray who will have to live her whole life knowing that she killed someone, needlessly.

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  • Peter12  |  April 06 2014, 8:19AM

    This driver failed a breath test and was not fit to drive. The crash caused a death and jail-time is entirely correct, even if the pedestrian stepped out. There is too much complacency about road casualties and also about drivers who drink.

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  • greasyian  |  April 05 2014, 8:20PM

    did the old lady stepout in front by mistake or was alchohol the factor here,if it cant be proved that the latter was the cause,then the woman concerned should not be in prison !!!

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