A driver who killed a much loved woman after losing control driving fast around a bend has been spared jail as the "greatest punishment" is living the rest of their life knowing they "have taken another". Chloe Bell, 21, was just 19 when she drove an estimated 46mph around a bend on a 40mph road, losing control of her Mini One, and smashing into two women walking in the same direction she was travelling along a path.
The incident on July 3 2020 tragically killed 70-year-old Elizabeth Anne Lythgoe and seriously injured a friend she was walking with. Anne was thrown forward up to 32 metres along Slag Lane, in Lowton, Wigan, with her friend thrown 16 metres into an adjoining field. Anne died hours later at around 11am in Salford Royal Hospital from her injuries.
Bolton Crown Court heard that Anne and her friend met regularly for walks in the area as a way of keeping active during lockdown and were walking just after 9am up Slag Lane towards Byrom Lane. As Bell turned around a bend on the lane she "appeared to lose control," Charlotte Crangle, prosecuting, told the court.
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Bell's car smashed into both of them with her Mini One ending up on its side. Ms Crangle told the court that the road turned from a 30mph zone into a 40mph zone, and there were many warning signs and markings making drivers aware of the bend. The court also heard that Bell was familiar with the road and drove along it often with the conditions of the road on that day fine.
"Once the loss of control occurred it was impossible to rectify," Ms Crangle said. Anne's friend is said to recall 'very little' from the incident, waking up in hospital days later. She had to remain in hospital for two weeks due to her injuries, which included multiple fractures and internal bleeding, before a lengthy rehab period out of hospital.
A victim impact statement read on behalf of Anne's husband, Frank, said his life has been 'hell' since Anne died and "I miss her so much as do many others". Ms Crangle said: "He was always quiet and she was outgoing but now he struggles to speak to others. I don't live anymore I just exist," the statement added.
A statement from her friend who was injured in the crash said: "Losing my best friend felt devastating she was the salt of the Earth within the community. Everyone knew her she was lovely." It added that she was a very outgoing person but after the incident "isn't that person anymore". "Everyday I think I am lucky to be here," she added. Ms Crangle concluded that Bell's "speed clearly was not suitable for the bend".
Oliver Jarvis, defending Bell, told the court that she has been "riddled with guilt" since the incident. "The defendant completely and utterly accepts responsibility for the devastating consequences of her driving." He added: "She knows she will have to carry the burden with her for the rest of her life."
A letter from a family member highlighted the impact the collision has had on her life. It said that Bell is "unable to forgive herself" and has become distant from friends and family, believing it should have been her that lost her life that day. "She feels deep regret and sorrow for the devastation caused," it added.
Mr Jarvis added that Bell "cannot imagine the grief and loss they must be experiencing and she is responsible for causing it. She struggles with the guilt every day. The aftermath will remain with her for the rest of her life as well as the experience of the criminal justice system."
Bell concedes that "everything followed from the excessive speed" and that "at some point on the bend the defendant was going too fast". The court heard that she was not on her phone at the time, or under the influence of drink or drugs, and remained at the scene afterwards. Bell pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.
Sentencing Bell, of Brambling Way, Lowton, to a 39 week suspended sentence, 140 hours of unpaid work, and a two year driving disqualification, Judge Martin Walsh said: "I want to make evident point that nothing that this court can do can put right the wrong that has been done."
Judge Walsh added that he accepted that consequences of Bell's driving were "unintended" saying that this is a "tragic case". "The greatest punishment that you will have to live the rest of your life with is that in your careless driving you have taken the life of another."
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