Caroline Meeking jailed for husband's car row killing

Caroline Meeking
Image caption Meeking told the jury that an argument had begun in the car after her husband had taken a wrong turn

A woman who caused the death of her husband in a crash by pulling on the handbrake in a drunken row has been jailed for two years.

Caroline Meeking, 45, and husband Alan, 49, from Ilminster, Somerset, had spent the day drinking in Bridport, Dorset, on 30 August before driving home.

Meeking was found guilty of manslaughter in November 2011 following a two-day trial at Bristol Crown Court.

She said they had argued after her husband had taken a wrong turn.

Passing sentence, Judge Neil Ford QC, the Recorder of Bristol, said: "In my judgement, this case is so serious I must pass an immediate custodial sentence.

'Whatever he wanted'

"A suspended sentence or community order would not reflect the seriousness of the offending."

During the two-day trial, the jury heard that the couple had between them drunk two bottles of rose wine and later had four or five pints of lager each.

Blood tests carried out afterwards found that Mr Meeking had a blood alcohol level of 168 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 80.

"I thought if I put the handbrake on it would slow the car down and I could get out. He could then go off and do whatever he wanted to do," Meeking said earlier.

Instead the couple's silver Ford Escort was sent into a spin and collided side-on with a car coming in the opposite direction. Mr Meeking was declared dead at the scene.

Judge Ford said Meeking was aware that her husband had drunk "significantly more" than allowed under drink drive laws.

"On the return journey you and he argued. It started over something trivial and then moved on to family members.

'Greatest loss'

"In that argument I have no doubt that he said some dreadful things to you and you asked him to stop the car and he didn't.

"As the car was travelling along at a speed close to 60mph and without warning you pulled on the handbrake and that caused the car to spin and hit a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction."

Judge Ford said that in passing sentence he had taken into account a pre-sentence report, a psychiatric report and statements from Mr Meeking's family.

"I accept that you are genuinely remorseful for your actions. You have accepted responsibility for the accident, if not criminal responsibility.

"You have caused the greatest loss to the family of Mr Meeking. You have caused immense loss to yourself and to your own family."

In a statement read outside the court, Mr Meeking's family said they were disappointed with his wife's reaction to his death.

"Two years is never enough but the family is pleased a custodial sentence has been imposed," they said.

"Caroline's behaviour towards the family has been shocking - never any contact or the word sorry."

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