Suspended term for Plymouth sleep crash driver

Image caption,
Taylor stopped only for petrol and coffee on a 555-mile round trip

A driver who caused the death of two people after falling asleep at the wheel of her car has been spared jail.

Joanne Taylor, 26, of Plymouth, Devon, had not slept for 22 hours when she hit the back of a tractor and trailer on the A38 in Ashburton in April 2009.

Her partner, Melissa Barnham, 24, and her 14-year-old half brother Daniel Lang died at the scene.

Taylor, who pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, was given a suspended prison sentence.

Judge Graham Cottle said the crash had already cost two lives and caused "appalling suffering" and depriving Taylor of her liberty would only cause more suffering.

"This case ranks among the most anxious and challenging sentencing exercises I've ever had to take," Judge Cottle said.

'Foolhardy enterprise'

Taylor was sentenced to nine months in jail, suspended for two years.

She was also banned from driving for four years and given a 180-hour community supervision order.

The court had heard Taylor, her father Gordon and stepbrother Michael, 17, were injured in the smash which happened as she tried to complete an overnight round trip to Liverpool from her home in Plymouth because of a "family difficulty".

Prosecutor David Evans said Taylor had been up all day before leaving Plymouth about 2230 BST, stopping only for petrol and cups of coffee on the 10-hour trip which covered 555 miles.

He said experts said such a trip was "an accident waiting to happen" and called it a "foolhardy enterprise".

As Taylor approached a slip-road on the southbound A38 at Ashburton, she fell asleep at the wheel and went straight into the back of the trailer and tractor at 0845 BST on Monday 13 April 2009.

Miss Barnham, who was a front-seat passenger, was killed instantly and Daniel, who had been sitting in the back of the red Suzuki Alto car but without a seatbelt fastened, died soon afterwards.

It is thought all the passengers were asleep at the time of the crash.

Barrister Rupert Taylor, defending, said his client could not recall very much about the impact, but speed, alcohol, and vehicle defects had played no part in the crash.

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