Motorway swerve driver jailed over deaths of two passengers

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A DRIVER has been jailed for 18 months after he caused the death of two friends when he lost control and crashed as he tried to turn off suddenly at a motorway junction.

Mechanic Ben Goodwin, 26 and his fiancée Karly Johnson, 24, who had recently bought their first home together in Batley, were both killed when Adam Snell’s Vauxhall Corsa flew off the road when he swerved at the last minute to leave the M1 at Junction 38.

Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday Snell later told police they were on their way to a “cruise”, a car enthusiasts gathering on open land near that junction on the evening of Sunday June 19 when the tragedy occurred.

He had not been to it before but Mr Goodwin had and was giving him directions as they drove southbound, with Miss Johnson in the passenger seat behind her fiancé.

Snell said Mr Goodwin was adjusting the music player and looked up at the last minute pointing out they were at the junction they needed.

Duncan Ritchie, prosecuting, said Snell was driving in the middle lane, at a speed estimated by a witness of about 80mph. That driver saw Snell suddenly swerve as he was almost past the junction, trying to take the turn off.

But he lost control of the vehicle which went across the slip road and became airborne over the embankment, sending debris flying.

The car crashed into trees and bushes before it landed, demolishing a fence and rolled several times before coming to rest badly damaged.

Snell managed to crawl out the front where the windscreen was missing but his two passengers were fatally injured. Both died from head injuries.

He told a witness at the scene if he had killed his friends he would not be able to live with himself.

The court heard he had passed his driving test in February 2008 and considered himself a “better then normal driver”.

He had got to know Mr Goodwin when both were working at the same garage in Batley and afterwards took his car to him because he considered him such a good mechanic.

Matthew Harding, representing Snell, urged the court to show mercy and take an exceptional course and not jail him immediately.

He said Mr Goodwin’s mother Linda Pearson had shown such a capacity for mercy by indicating she did not want him jailed for the error of his driving that night.

Mr Harding said she described having found comfort talking to Adam Snell about “that tragic day” and felt sending him to prison would not help her grief or heartache.

He said Snell would have to live with what he had done for the rest of his life and was already having difficulties with that, having self harmed and attempted suicide since.

Snell, 24, of Huddersfield Road, Birstall, Batley, admitted causing the deaths of the couple by dangerous driving and was disqualified for four years.

Sentencing him Judge Kerry Macgill said there had to be a jail term because Snell chose to try and turn off rather than go on to the next junction and return.

“You chose to swerve from the middle lane and leave the motorway, that in that brief moment was an act of dangerous driving, because you steered to the left so late you lost control. You chose to do what you did and dreadful consequences have followed.”

He expressed sympathy to the families involved saying such cases were among the most difficult courts had to deal with. The judge also condemned a “vilification” campaign against Snell on the social networking site Facebook by some connected to the deceased saying he was sure that was not what either of them would have wanted.

The court heard a joint funeral was held for the couple. Mark Johnson said in a victim impact statement that without his daughter Karly, who had recently qualified as a dental nurse “life simply will never be the same again”.

The judge also heard Mr Goodwin had a young son from a previous relationship who “wakes up in his sleep shouting for his father”.