A WOMAN driver who knocked down and killed a teenager near the girl’s school has escaped a jail sentence after a court heard she was of “impeccable character.”
Helen McLoughlin was driving her Land Rover Freelander at between 10-15mph as she turned into Station Road at Ackworth, Pontefract on the afternoon of October 10 last year and struck 15-year-old Imogen Young.
Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday Imogen was on her way to her grandmother’s prior to a a singing lesson and was walking with her mother, who worked at the nearby Ackworth School when the tragedy happened.
The mother was a pace or two ahead of her daughter as they crossed Station Road. As she reached the traffic island she heard a noise, looked back and saw Imogen face down on the road having been hit by the vehicle.
She was bleeding but still breathing.
McLoughlin, a nursery assistant and dinner lady, stopped and when she emerged from the Freelander appeared to be in shock.
John Bull, prosecuting, said McLoughlin told one witness: “I just didn’t see them” and to another person at the scene said: “I’ve killed her. I didn’t even see her.”
Imogen was rushed to Pinderfields Hospital, wakefield, and later transferred to Leeds General Infirmary but died from her traumatic brain injuries.
The court heard McLoughlin, a mother of two, said she had stopped to allow traffic to pass on the A628 Pontefract Road before turning into the junction of Station road. She also maintained she had indicated.
Mr Bull said prosecution witnesses said they had not seen her indicate to turn and believed she was continuously moving, which she disputed. The accident investigators report said, in spite of drizzly weather, McLoughlin should have had a clear view of Imogen for more than two seconds.
When she was interviewed McLoughlin said when she moved off and turned into Station Road “there was just a bang”. She said she knew the road well and had driven only a short distance from her home to go to a parent’s evening for her son.
Simon Clegg, representing her, told the court she could not express her remorse and regret to Imogen’s family and thought of them constantly. “It is something that will always be with her.”
He said she had never been in any trouble before nor had any history of driving inconsiderately.
“This was a terrible and tragic accident and the defendant was guilty of the sort of lapse of concentration and momentary inattention that many motorists commit often with no consequences but sadly in this case it had the worst of all consequences.”
McLoughlin, 37, of Mill Close, Pontefract admitted causing Imogen’s death by driving without due care and was given a one year community order with 200 hours unpaid work and a two year driving ban.
Judge Simon Hickey said he accepted her regret and remorse was genuine and references showed she was of “impeccable character.”
He had been moved reading the victim impact statement of the effect on Imogen’s family and no sentence could bring her back.
“You, like Imogen’s mother and family, will have to live with this for the rest of your life.”
Imogen’s family were in court to hear the case. Her mother Sarah Bentham said after an earlier hearing that her death had left them devastated.
“We miss her terribly. It leaves such a massive hole in your life that you cannot fill. She was a vibrant, colourful, lively, talented and beatiful girl. She excelled at music and had a beautiful singing voice. She was a superstar the world has never seen.”
The family have set up the Imogen Young Trust Fund in her memory to give opportunities to young singers.
Kathryn Bell, head of Ackworth School said after the tragedy: “Imogen was a kind and gentle pupil who made a major contribution to the musical life of the school.
“She will be best remembered for her beautiful singing voice and her many solo performances.”