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Haverhill woman imprisoned for causing fatal A1307 collision when ‘wholly incapable of driving’

Sarah Hand has been imprisoned for eight years for causing death by dangerous driving while over the limit for alcohol, cannabis and cocaine. Picture:Cambridgeshire Police
Sarah Hand has been imprisoned for eight years for causing death by dangerous driving while over the limit for alcohol, cannabis and cocaine. Picture:Cambridgeshire Police

A 50-year-old woman who drank gin and vodka and smoked a joint before getting behind the wheel of her Ford Fiesta car and causing a fatal road accident has been handed an eight-year prison term.

Sarah Hand was sentenced today at Cambridge Crown Court after she pleaded guilty to three charges in relation to the collision on the A1307 at 12.15pm on December 22, 2017 in which Gail Brown, 56, of Lowry Close, Haverhill was killed.

Hand, of Aragon Road, Haverhill, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving while over the drink-driving limit. She had 162 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The limit is 80.

She also pleaded guilty to a charge of causing death by careless driving while ten times over the limit for benzoylecgonine (produced when cocaine breaks down in your body).

She had 500ug/L in 100 mill of blood and the limit is 50 ug/L.

Hand also admitted causing death by careless driving while over the limit for cannabis, having 2.2ug/L in 100 mill of blood when the specified limit is 2.0ug/L.

Marti Blair, prosecuting, told the court the accident happened after Hand had overtaken a lorry on the Cambridge-bound section of dual carriageway some 800 metres before the Horseheath Road turn for Linton.

Having overtaken she pulled in and hit the near-side grass verge, causing her to overcorrect her steering and serve across the grass central reservation and collide head-on with the Nissan Micra being driven by Mrs Brown, who had been driving home to Haverhill for Christmas. She died at the scene.

Miss Blair said a motorist who had stopped to help gave a statement to police, in which she had said: “She staggered and crawled on her hands and knees to the front of the car and said ‘I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been drinking’ and then she threw her head in her hands and said ‘what have I done’.”

The court later heard that Hand admitted in a conversation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where she was taken after the accident, that she had drunk ten centimetre measures of gin and vodka that morning and had a cannabis joint at 8am.

In mitigation, John Dye said Hand was a single parent who had suffered years of domestic abuse, leading to complex post traumatic stress disorder and had battled alcoholism most of her adult life.

He said: “It was clear that reading between the lines she had a chaotic lifestyle.

“It’s an explanation as to why she finds herself here, it’s not and never will be an excuse.

“She accepts and knows full well that the misery she has caused will never go away for some time, if ever.

“She is responsible for that and has to live with that on a daily basis.”

Mr Dye also said Hand deserved credit for pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity.

His Honour Judge Stuart Bridge said: “She (Hand) lost control of her car quite simply because she was wholly incapable of driving it, incapable of driving it because of the quantity of alcohol in her body.

“She had also ingested cannabis and cocaine. The effect of that is less clear but at the very least the fact that those drugs had been taken and that she drove in those circumstances quite clearly underline her utterly cavalier and reckless approach to driving on that day.”

The judge, who added that Hand has admitted to taking the cocaine at 7.3o the evening before the crash, sentenced Hand to eight years in prison, of which half will be served in custody and the remainder on licence.

He also banned her from driving until December 22, 2031 and said should she ever wish to drive again she would have to take an extended driving test