A woman has been jailed after a court heard emotional statements from the family of a devoted North East couple killed by her dangerous driving.

Ellen Charlotte Leslie, 55, was returning from a trip to Edinburgh with her student son, Theo, when her Volkswagen T-Cross drifted across double while lines on the A66 near Warcop, in Cumbria, shortly before mid-day on May 23, 2022..

It crashed into an oncoming lorry, which, in-turn, collided with a Volkswagen Golf, immediately behind the T-Cross, with tragic consequences.

The court heard Steven and Christine Goodings, from Sunderland, both suffered catastrophic multiple injuries.

The Northern Echo: Deceased Steven and Christine Goodings, who died from catastrophic injuries caused in a

Mrs Goodings, 61, the front seat passenger in the Golf, died at the scene, while her husband, the driver, who celebrated his 60th birthday three days earlier, was airlifted to hospital, but died from his injuries three-and-a-half weeks later.

Passing sentence in the case, at Carlisle Crown Court today (Thursday January 11), Judge Nicholas Barker said the couple had “no chance" and no way of escaping the collision.

The defendant previously admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

But the sentencing process was delayed by a three-hour hearing during which the defence sought to overturn a suggestion that the defendant, who works as an architectural historian, had knowingly deprived herself of sleep before driving.

Such a finding would have been an aggravating feature, but Judge Barker told the defendant he accepted her evidence that she went to bed at 9.30pm the previous evening and that the time she spent sleeping meant she had not knowingly deprived herself of rest.

But the judge concluded: “It is highly likely that Ellen Leslie lost consciousness through falling asleep, albeit for a few seconds.

“I say that because she did not react to her surroundings at the time her vehicle crosses the white lines.

“She did not respond to the presence of the oncoming hgv.”

The Northern Echo:

The fatal collision happened about 90 minutes after Leslie, of Bromley, in south-est London, and her son had stopped for a break at Annandale Services.

While the defendant accepted that she drank three glasses of wine the previous evening, the judge, again,said he was satisfied that she had allowed herself sufficient time to recover before driving.

The court heard poignant statements from the family of Mr and Mrs Goodings.

They included one from son Steven junior, who said the tragedy had turned his family’s life upside down.

He said the grief, stress, anger, confusion, and loss were still fresh in his mind.

Mr Goodings jnr said as his father, a highly fit cyclist who was looking forward to retirements with his wife, lay in intensive care, they hoped he would survive.

He said it was his father’s “extraordinary level of fitness” that gave him the chance to survive.

But he said with his father so gravely ill, he was unable to properly grieve for his mother.

“He looked so sad and in so much pain. It’s absolutely indescribable,” said Mr Goodings.

He said the police told him that in the immediate aftermath of the crash that his father was conscious and his first words were to tell the officer present to help his wife.

“Even with all those injuries and loss of blood, he thought of someone else.

“Lives stolen is the most appropriate term used when describing the effect of the collision on my family’s lives.”

He outlined how since the tragedy, he had been diagnosed with myeloid leukaemia, a condition he believes was brought on by the stress and impact of what happened to his parents on that day.

His brother Gareth said the pain of the tragedy was, “simply too much to bear.”

He said: “I spent my 35th birthday holding dad’s hand in hospital as he passed away.

“The pain was simply too much to bear.”

He said his parents were his world, his best friends and, “the very core” of him.

Ann Crighton, in mitigation, told the court that the defendant had expressed remorse, stating: “Words could not express how sorry she was for being responsible for the deaths of two fit and healthy people who were, like herself, parents.

Miss Crighton also highlighted the injuries sustained by the defendant.

She told the court: “She suffered life-changing injuries herself and is in constant pain as a result of those injuries.

“That pain would continue for the rest of her life and included numbness in her face and skull.”

Formerly somebody who went running every day, Miss Crighton said the defendant is no longer able to do so.

She added: “As far as she is concerned, she never wants to drive for the rest of her life.”

Judge Barker told the defendant that the tragedy she caused had a "profound impact" on the family of the victims.

“The victim impact statements, read bravely by some, show they are a close-knit and loving family, and that this incident has ruptured and torn their lives forever.

“To hear their statements, the mother, sister, sons, daughter, their loss is beyond words.

“Nothing which the courts do today will replace Steven and Christine, who were good, honest, hard-working people, kind and loving.

“They were looking forward to a happy old age together.”

The judge told Leslie: “This court understands that you are not a bad person, but you have done a bad thing which has had a truly devastating effect.”

He said he accepted that Leslie was, herself, a “good mother” and had done good in her life, working hard and contributing too her community.

“She had never been before a court before and previously had an unblemished driving record.

“All that speaks to the good in you.

“But all those who drive take on a great burden or responsibility, a burden to drive safely.

“We all use the road for business and leisure purposes.

“When we do so we all take on that burden and that responsibility.

“At the same time, we are all vulnerable to the effects of bad drivers who are not driving to the necessary high standard, and this is just such a case.”

Jailing Leslie for 28 months, Judge Barker also imposed a 74-month ban.

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She must then pass an extended test before being eligible to drive legitimately in future.

The judge said that even if the sentence had been less than two years, the threshold at which custody can be suspended, he would have imposed an immediate prison term.

“I would not consider appropriate punishment could be achieved by anything other than an immediate custodial sentence,” he added.