An Armagh woman who caused a pensioner’s death when she crashed into her car has avoided being sent to jail.
Jacinta Grimley, 51, appeared at Newry Crown Court on Friday having pleaded guilty to causing the death of 71-year-old Maureen Duffy by driving carelessly on the Loughgall Road in Armagh on July 14, 2019.
She received an enhanced combination order of 100 hours community service and a 12-month probation period, as well as being banned from driving for a year.
Judge Gordon Kerr KC said it was clear the children and grandchildren of Ms Duffy “loved her deeply” and that the retired school teacher had been “at the centre of all family activities”.
Prosecuting KC Ciaran Murphy told the court how it had been a fine summer’s day when the Honda Civic being driving by Grimley, of St Patrick’s Park in Armagh, overshot a junction and collided with Ms Duffy’s Vauxhall Viva.
Ms Duffy’s car came to rest in an adjacent field, with other drivers stopping to help, including an off-duty nurse who initially gave first aid.
Emergency services rushed to the scene but she was pronounced dead an hour after the crash.
Ms Duffy, whose grieving relatives were in the public gallery, was a mother-of-two that originally came from Glasgow but moved to Northern Ireland after raising her family. She taught English for more than 20 years at a school in Irvine.
Mr Murphy told the court Grimley had been spoken to at the scene and told police she “thought it was a straight road” and was unaware there was a junction ahead on the single rural carriageway.
A forensic engineer examined the scene and discovered that as well as the road marking at the junction being badly worn, a warning sign 60 metres back from the junction was partially obscured by foliage.
Despite those features, Mr Murphy said an attentive driver ought to have seen car roofs at right angles to the junction over the top of the hedges.
Defence counsel Kevin O’Hare made it clear that while he was concentrating on Grimley, nothing he said was intended to detract from the loss suffered by Ms Duffy’s family.
He told the court that as a mother and grandmother herself, Grimley “is devastated about the death of Ms Duffy and she accepts full responsibility for her actions and acknowledges the impact of the tragic passing of the victim”.
Highlighting that Grimley has a clear record and entered an early guilty plea, he said it was clear that Ms Duffy had been “an exceptional person”.
“Nothing you can impose here will address that loss, but it’s clear from the reports that Mrs Grimley will carry around her responsibility and the knowledge that it’s her fault for the accident that caused the death of Ms Duffy,” he added.
Judge Kerr said he “can only sympathise” with the Duffy family who have been left with a “void that will never be filled”.
He said taking account of the guidelines, Grimley’s plea and clear record, that a 10-month jail sentence would be appropriate, but added that he was also duty bound to consider an enhanced combination order with that length of sentence.
After imposing the order, the judge warned Grimley if she breached any aspect of it “you will be brought back to court and I can assure you that I will impose the custodial sentence”.