A judge has given a young motorist who caused a fatal crash because she was texting at the wheel a custodial sentence, saying the case should send a “terrible warning” to anyone using a mobile phone while driving.
Nikita Ainley, 20, was sent to a young offenders’ institution for three and a half years after she admitted causing the death of Mary Rutherford, 68.
Judge Stephen Ashurst, at York Crown Court, told her: “No message is so urgent that it requires someone to lose their life.”
Ainley was driving to work at Asda in Bilton, near Hull, in her Renault Clio when she ploughed into a Fiat Panda, the court heard. She was 18 at the time.
Mrs Rutherford, from Withernsea, East Yorkshire, was in the back seat of the Fiat, returning from a supermarket trip with friends.
The judge said the result of the crash, in a country lane between Hull and Withernsea, was a “scene of devastation”.
Ainley initially denied she had been texting on her BlackBerry at the time of the crash. She said she had pulled over in order to exchange messages with a friend about a night out.
But a painstaking inquiry by Humberside Police established that the last of two messages she sent was transmitted only 48 seconds before a witness to the crash dialled 999.
Judge Ashurst told Ainley: “It was a scene of devastation.
“No message is so urgent that it requires someone to lose their life as a result of it. That, I’m afraid, is what you did on this occasion.
“It was your thoughtless use of a BlackBerry phone that has brought about a completely unnecessary death.”
He said: “This case ought really to stand as a terrible warning as to the dangers of that kind of obviously unlawful activity.
“This is an illustration of the dangers of using mobile phones and other devices.”
Ainley, from Roos, East Yorkshire, who has no previous convictions and was described as being a “normal young woman”, was banned from driving for five years and ordered to take an extended driving test if she wants to drive again.
She cried as she was led down the steps to the cells.
The court heard Mrs Rutherford had been recovering from being seriously ill from cancer. She left two daughters and three grandchildren.
Outside court, one of her daughters, Dawn Timmings, said she had a simple message for drivers following the death of her mother on May 30 last year.
Fighting back tears, she said: “Just put the phone somewhere where you don’t need to hear it or see it. It’s not complicated.
“My mum did not need to die that day. My mum was a constant in my life. I’ll never, ever be able to see her again.
“I’ll never have that cuddle. I’ll never have those silly conversations. I’ll never be able to hold her hand.
“I want people to know my mum was special.”