‘It destroyed our family and left us in darkness’ – family of teacher after woman sentenced for death by careless driving

Laura Wright leaving Sunderland Magistrates' Court
Laura Wright leaving Sunderland Magistrates' Court
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A driver who “destroyed” a family has walked free from court.

Motorcyle passenger Gemma Kay, 23, was killed and her partner Gary Dodd seriously injured when motorist Laura Alicyn Wright pulled out of a junction after failing to spot them on April 26.

Gemma was my only child, my parents’ only grandchild. The future of our family has been destroyed

Gemma Kay’s mother

Wright, 33, was back at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court yesterday for sentence after last week pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving.

She sobbed in the dock as heart-wrenching statements from Miss Kay’s family were read out, describing their suffering as “a life sentence”.

Wright, from Ann Avenue, Kelloe, County Durham, was handed a one-year driving ban and given a curfew with an electronic tag for five months, after being told the sentencing guidelines for the offence do not stretch to a prison term.

Prosecutor Paul Doney said Wright had been driving on Inkerman Road, Concord, Washington, with her nine-year-old son and her partner’s four-year-old son in her Vauxhall Meriva, when the collision happened at the junction with Heworth Road.

Mr Doney said Mr Dodd, from Washington, had been seeing Miss Kay for 18 months and had taken her out on the bike to see if she enjoyed it. “At 11.15am they left his home address to got for a short ride, riding around the area of Washington, showing Miss Kay various sights,” Mr Doney said.

“The traffic was light, it was a typical Sunday morning. It was fine and sunny and visibility was perfect.”

Just 12 minutes later, tragedy struck when Wright pulled out straight into their path.

“Mr Dodd swerved to the right to avoid the car, but was unable to avoid the front of the vehicle and collided with the nearside,”

Mr Doney said. “As soon as he removed his helmet, he knew his leg was broken.

“Miss Kay was not moving or responding. He could hear that she was not breathing normally.”

Miss Kay was taken to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary suffering from head and chest injuries that were so bad, that doctors were unable to use her organs for donation when she died the following day.

Gavin Sword, defending, said extensive inquiries by police had included viewing CCTV footage from nearby properties, interviewing numerous witnesses and an accident reconstruction. Checks had revealed there were no obvious distractions, he said.

“This accident was caused because she did not see that motorcycle, that is something she will have to live with for the rest of her life,” Mr Sword said.

“I’ve been handed a letter that Miss Wright wants to send to the parents of the victim.

“This is a tragic case there is no getting away from that, but you are punishing her for a moment’s inattention.”

Sentencing Wright, bench chairwoman Angela Wilson said she wanted to make it clear that her hands were tied in respect of sentence.

Quoting from the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines, she said: “Even the fact that death is caused is not enough to justify a prison sentence.”

“What cannot be changed, cannot be changed.”

Ms Wilson added. “We do realise that nothing can turn back the clock, that this has had enormous impact on your life and neither of these things can be undone.”

Knock on the door is ’every parent’s nightmare’

Gary Dodd, who suffered two leg fractures, said in a victim statement: “As a result of this incident I’ve lost Gemma and I can’t put into words how devastated I am over this.”

Gemma’s mother described the knock on the door by the police on the day of the crash as “every parent’s worst nightmare”.

“It is etched in my memory hour by hour,” she said. “Seeing my daughter Gemma on the life support machine is something no parent should ever endure.

“The surgeon told us she was so critically ill they had to turn off the life support machine.”

She described how the family could not even take comfort from organ donation, as her body had been deprived of oxygen.

“Gemma was my only child, my parents’ only grandchild,” she added. “The future of our family has been destroyed.

“Instead of looking forward to birthdays and Christmas, we’ve had to organise her funeral.

“She was the first person in our family to go to university, she graduated last summer with a first degree in maths.

“Hers and Gary’s future looked so bright. To say that we are devastated is an understatement. The light has gone out of our lives and there is only darkness. We have been given a life sentence.”

Miss Kay’s stepdad said: “Laura Wright pulled out of a T-junction. Our daughter Gemma paid for this manoeuvre with her life.

“Our lives will never be the same again, Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day or Fathers’ Day will never be enjoyable again. We will live our lives with the constant reminder of how we lost our only daughter, all because Laura Wright wasn’t concentrating on what she was doing.”

A statement from Miss Kay’s grandparents read: “Gemma worked so hard to complete her maths degree.

“She had almost finished her teacher training and had already secured a job teaching full-time in September.

“Gemma will remain in our hearts forever.”