Driver jailed for crash that killed teenage girl

A DRIVER who clocked up 110mph before a crash which killed a teenage girl has been jailed for nine years.

The High Court in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

A court heard that James Neill, 35, ignored pleas to slow down as his terrified passengers were flung from side to side and his Honda Civic sped down the A83 towards Tarbert, Argyll.

Neill lost control going into a right-hand bend and the car spun off the road and smashed into a large rock before bouncing back onto the carriageway.

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Natasha Clark, 17, and her friend Sandra Harvey were trapped in the rear of the vehicle and were both taken to hospital by ambulance.

Front-seat passenger Sean McGregor was also hurt.

Ms Clark’s injuries were so severe she was airlifted to Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Some 24 hours later her family faced the agonising decision to halt medical treatment and she was pronounced dead.

In court, Neill admitted causing the death of Ms Clark by driving dangerously and at excessive speed near Erines, Tarbert, on 20 August, 2012.

When he appeared for sentence at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, judge Lord Stewart told him his speed had been “grossly excessive”.

He added: “The danger to passengers of your vehicle and other road users was obvious but you continued in complete disregard of pleas to slow down.”

Neill, of Tarbert, was also banned from driving for 15 years and ordered to take an extended test before getting behind the wheel again.

Ms Clark’s family left the court without comment.

Solicitor advocate Simon Whyte, defending, said since the fatal incident Neill had been treated for anxiety and had been unable to work.

Lord Stewart said he accepted that Neill’s remorse was genuine.

Ms Clark, of Tarbert, a former Aboyne Academy pupil, worked as a shop assistant in Lochgilphead’s Co-op supermarket.

On the evening of 20 August, 2012, she had visited hairdresser Sandra Harvey, who was going to Stronachullin to do another friend’s hair. Ms Harvey’s boyfriend, Sean McGregor, was a friend of Neill’s and he agreed to drive them to Stronachullin.

Advocate depute Tim Niven- Smith, prosecuting, said at the start of the return journey Neill revved the Civic’s engine, accelerated sharply and spun the wheels of the car.

Throughout the journey he was driving too fast, the court heard.

“Sandra Harvey looked at the speedometer and saw that it was reading a speed of 110mph,” said Mr Niven-Smith. “Sandra Harvey saw that Natasha Clark looked frightened.

“Sandra Harvey held Natasha Clark’s hand and closed her eyes.”

Mr Niven-Smith said that Sean McGregor told his friend to slow down and to stop “pushing it”.

He also saw that the speedo-meter was reading 110mph and van driver Coll McFarlane, travelling in the opposite direction, estimated the Honda Civic speed as more than 100mph.

His passenger, Davie Russell, later told police it was the fastest he had seen a car travelling on that stretch of road.

The court heard that Neill was still driving well in excess of the 60mph speed limit when he braked to go into a turn and the car began to spin out of control.

Crash experts said that at the time of the impact the Civic was still travelling at more than 70mph.