Teenager jailed after death crash

A BARRISTER has called for major improvements at a dangerous road junction where a mother was killed – after a teenager was jailed for 12 months in connection with the crash.

A BARRISTER has called for major improvements at a dangerous road junction where a mother was killed – after a teenager was jailed for 12 months in connection with the crash.

Defence counsel Charles Shellard appealed for urgent measures to be taken at the crossroads in Wivenhoe where Victoria Hazelwood was killed travelling home with her husband and six-month-old baby in May last year.

He said he hoped “some good could come out of this terrible tragedy”.

The barrister's plea came during a sentencing hearing yesterday for Scott Smith, now 20, of Barrell Close, Frating, who admitted causing Ms Hazelwood's death by dangerous driving.

He told Chelmsford Crown Court that police considered high-growing trees and hedgerows rendered visibility at the junction of Brightlingsea Road and Elmstead Road, near Wivenhoe Town Football Club, poor.

He said that partly explained why then 19-year-old Smith, who was driving a Renault and was familiar with the road, failed to see an oncoming Chrysler in which Ms Hazelwood was a front-seat passenger.

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Stephen Harvey, prosecuting, said the 38-year-old mother, her husband, Nicholas Swindells, 32, and their baby daughter, Renee, had been returning to their Surrey home after a weekend away visiting relatives in north Essex late at night on May 30, 2004.

He said Smith, who was travelling with a car, had not been drinking, but failed to heed the clearly marked 'give way' signs as he approached the crossroads going away from Wivenhoe on Elmstead Road.

Instead, he went straight over the junction at 32mph and smashed into the Chrysler, which was travelling along Brightlingsea Road at a similar speed.

The impact of the crash caused the Chrysler Cruiser to roll over, the court heard.

Factory worker Smith listened in tears as Mr Harvey said: “In his statement, Mr Swindells said the first he knew about the crash was when he heard a loud bang, but he thought it was a gunshot.

“He then recalls his daughter crying and his wife not moving. He doesn't recall the car rolling over and thinks he might have passed out.

“Smith's passenger said his friend had been driving normally and that he had not feared for his life,” he added.

Mr Shellard, mitigating, said: “As tragic cases go, this has to be up there with the most awful of them.

“As a result of the accident, we researched that junction and found 13 previous incidents there. The vegetation and visibility there is a problem.

“If there is any facility by which improvements could be made, maybe some good could come out of this terrible tragedy.”

Smith broke down as Judge Christopher Ball QC rejected a plea for a suspended sentence.

Sentencing him to 12 months in a Young Offenders Institution, Judge Ball said: “You did not intend to harm anyone, but by reason of your bad driving the court is now filled by those who suffered a great loss and full of friends and family on your side who fear for you.

“There are no winners and no sentence can do justice to everyone. Whatever sentence I pass will be wrong. No term of imprisonment can bring back the person you killed.

“I regret it, but there has to be a term of custody and I keep it as short as I reasonably can.”

Smith was also disqualified from driving for four years.

In a statement after the hearing, Ms Hazelwood's family said: “We are pleased that this awful chapter of our life is now finally closed. We are now ready to move on with our lives, especially for the sake of little Renee. We have no comment to make on the sentence handed down to Scott Smith.”

Inspector Steve Brewer, senior investigating officer, said: “Scott Smith failed to exercise care as he drove far below the required standard of driving resulting in this crash. He only knows the full reason why this happened, but I'm certain that it will be a moment that will stay with him for the rest of his life.”

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said: “If there are concerns about this junction, we will have a look at it to see if we can do anything to improve visibility.”