A JUDGE praised the sister of a woman who was killed in a crash with a drunk driver for making a moving statement in court under new rights for victims.
Judge Christopher Prince believed the family of Jacqueline Dowdall, 44, were the first in the country to make use of the Victims’ Code which was only introduced yesterday, and said their dignified statement could act as a deterrent to other offenders.
Craig Bourne, 31, who served in Iraq with the Army’s Bomb Disposal Unit and suffers from post traumatic stress, drove his girlfriend’s Kia Sorrento 4x4 into Miss Dowdall’s Fiat Panda on the A1 near Durham at around 5am on Sunday April 7.
He was travelling at close to the two-and-a-quarter tonne vehicle’s maximum speed, over 100mph, when he drove straight into Miss Dowdall. There was no sign of braking or swerving.
Her Fiat Panda, weighing less than half his vehicle, was catapulted from the 42-45mph she was travelling at, to almost 89mph, tests showed.
Bourne had been awake for 22 hours, had taken anti-depressants and then gone out drinking with his girlfriend in Darlington the night before, then made the catastrophic decision to drive to his mother’s home in Washington, Tyne and Wear, in the early hours.
The prescribed drugs were known to make people drowsy, particularly if mixed with alcohol, the court heard.
More than two hours after the smash, a breath test found he was almost twice over the drink drive limit.
Miss Dowdall was probably killed instantly by the impact which caused her car to somersault, Durham Crown Court heard.
Before jailing Bourne for seven years and four months for causing death by dangerous driving and drink driving, Judge Prince praised his victim’s family and in particular her sister Angela Shipley who read a statement in open court on their behalf.
The judge said: “Mrs Shipley, her sister, demonstrated great personal restraint and dignity in the manner in which she presented that statement on behalf of the family.
“Her personal fortitude in undertaking that task was self-evident.
“It is to be hoped that in reaction to such a clear and profoundly moving expression of their distress, devastation and sadness that such cases as this may deter other from committing such offences in the future.”
The Victims’ Code was introduced to give victims of crimes and their families the right to make statements in open court and only came into force yesterday.
After Mrs Shipley spoke, the judge said: “You must be the first victim to present such a statement in court.
“This new procedure allows voice to be literally heard.”
Bourne pleaded guilty to both offences.
The court room sat in silence as Mrs Shipley read the statement on behalf of her father Frank.
Miss Dowdall was on her way from her home in Coxhoe, County Durham, to the Asda in Washington where she worked in the accounts department when she was killed.
She was the oldest of five children whose loss has devastated the close family.
Her sister said: “Jacqueline was travelling at a quiet time of day, travelling to her secure and well-paid job.
“She was neither drunk, drugged or tired and from nowhere her life was taken from her, through no fault of her own.
“I don’t think anyone can imagine how this feels... a life snuffed out and a beautiful person taken away from us.
“Bourne was drunk, tired and must have been driving fast to cause the horrific injuries sustained by Jacqueline.”
Her father could never forgive the defendant, saying: “He has robbed us of so much.”