A man who was not wearing a seat belt died instantly after being thrown from a car which went out of control and rolled off a road, coming to rest in undergrowth, late at night.

Jake Blakemore, 29, was declared dead at the scene, off the C128, Tanfield Lea to Kip Hill road, near Stanley, shortly after 11.40pm on Sunday September 3, last year.

Durham Crown Court was told the Peugeot 206 vehicle in which he was travelling was driven by a friend, Jody Gillings, who had a, "momentary lapse in concentration", on a gentle left-hand bend.

Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, said having turned left, to its offside, the car veered sideways, travelled across the grass verge and tumbled through undergrowth and an area of trees.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Cleasby said Mr Blakemore was ejected from the front passenger seat and suffered “catastrophic head injuries”, from which his death was confirmed at the scene.

A pathologist confirmed he would have died instantly from his injuries.

Mr Cleasby said the defendant, 28-year-old Gillings, was in a highly distressed state and sought help from two passing motorists.

When emergency services arrived, she told them she had “killed her friend and it was her fault", but she said she tried to give Mr Blakemore mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

She said when she tried to turn the corner, the steering wheel, “turned the other way”.

Mr Cleasby said she estimated she had been driving between 60 and 65-miles per hour, and she repeated that when she tried to turn the car she lost control, adding that her steering wheel had been making, “funny noises”.

Accident investigators said the road, between Tanfield Lea and Kip Hill, was clear and dry, and in the area of the incident, it was unlit.

The car was found to be roadworthy, with a suitable level of grip, having passed an MOT in July last year, and at the time of the accident the tyres had sufficient tread.

Investigators confirmed the front seat passenger could not have been wearing a seat belt at the time as the buckle was in its normal position, when not in use, while there was no evidence of the defendant having been distracted by anything like use of a mobile phone.

The examination concluded that at about 11.42pm while driving in a south-easterly direction towards Kip Hill, the defendant negotiated a gentle left-hand bend, and, midway around that bend, she lost control, indicative of the car having been over-steered more than the driver intended, possibly trying to correct a previous over-steer.

It travelled over the grass verge and across a pavement, dropping into woodland and vegetation, tumbling and overturning, coming to rest 51 metres from where it left the road.

Mr Cleasby said investigators confirmed there was no evidence of emergency braking on the road surface.

A blood sample was taken and showed only 19mg of alcohol in the defendant’s system, compared to a blood/alcohol legal limit to drive of 80mg.

Mr Cleasby said inquiries into the defendant’s prior movements showed she was recently released, at the time, from a hospital in York, where she had received mental health treatment.

On September 3 she travelled to and from York by train, coming back in the company of Mr Blakemore.

They socialised that evening with friends and left at 11.15pm, saying they were heading straight home.

The Northern Echo:

In a victim statement, Mr Blakemore’s father, Paul, described his son as, “unique, articulate and smart”, but, “strong-willed and defiant”.

Mr Blakemore said Jake was, “creative and saw good in people … a joker who loved to be the comic.”

He said his son was a keen Leeds United fan from the age of eight and was a season ticket holder, but he was also a keen guitarist and was described by his brother Joe as, “a rock star” and, “a free spirit”.

His father said his son did not like authority, and was, “too much of a free spirit to be conventional”, having, “alienated so many people who cared for him.”

But Mr Blakemore added: “Our hearts go out to the driver who would have been charmed by Jake and would have wanted to help him.

“She was looking out for our son and a momentary lapse in concentration would have affected her.

“He was happy, warm and safe in the company of someone who loved him and could have loved him.”

The court heard Gillings, of Roseberry Street, Beamish, near Stanley, who has no previous convictions, admitted a charge of causing death by careless driving.

Judge Jo Kidd told defence counsel, James Bourne-Arton, that having read psychiatric and probation reports on the defendant, she would be passing a non-custodial sentence.

Mr Bourne-Arton said the defendant had undertaken, “a medical procedure” only two days before the hearing, which she was still overcoming.

Judge Kidd told Gillings that it was clear to vehicle examiners that Mr Blakemore was not wearing a seat belt.

“It may well have been had he been wearing a seat belt, the level of injury would have been lesser.”

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She said the defendant has, “no background of bad driving”, and due to her guilty plea, she could “step away” from passing a sentence of imprisonment.

Judge Kidd imposed a community order, with a four-month 7pm to 7am home curfew, at both her own and and her father’s address, but with no probation supervision due to her medical treatment.

Telling Gilling she would also be subject of a 12-month obligatory driving disqualification, the judge told her she was, “free to leave the dock.”