A pensioner made a court-room apology as she was spared jail for causing a head-on crash that left two young children fighting for their lives.
Margaret Lowery - a 79-year-old widow described as a “community-spirited” member of society - was behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Corsa when it left the road, mounted a grass verge and slammed into an oncoming Rover 25.
Darren Handyside, 46, and his two children, Jack, 10, and Sophie, eight, were left with horrific injuries following the smash on September 29 last year on the A688 road near Staindrop, County Durham.
Lowery, 79, from Sandford Court, Sunderland, had been driving erratically in the lead-up to the crash and when questioned was unable to explain what had happened. She emerged “virtually unscathed” and told detectives she had “felt light-headed” but had no recollection of the crash.
During a sentencing hearing at Teesside Crown Court yesterday, prosecutor Adrian Dent said the accident caused “devastating damage to Mr Handyside’s vehicle” and said it was a “miracle that nobody was killed”.
Lowery’s barrister, Mark Savill, told the court that given the chance she would “not hesitate in taking the pain and suffering that Mr Handyside and his children had suffered upon herself”.
Suspending a 15-month sentence for two years, Judge Tony Briggs told Lowery: “This case in my experience is an extremely unusual one.
“I’ve seen many cases where the most appalling piece of driving has caused no injury and protected people to use cars as dangerous projectiles which could have wreaked enormous havoc. I see other cases where a momentary lapse in attention has caused the most catastrophic consequences.”
He added: “The tragedy of this case is the catastrophic injuries caused to Mr Handyside and his two young children. The three suffered head and body injuries and they have had an appalling long-term affect.”
Widowed grandmother Lowery, a former bank worker and shop assistant, entered a guilty plea to dangerous driving.
Through her barrister she offered an apology to Mr Handyside and his two children. Mr Savill told the court Lowery, a WI member who had held an unblemished driving licence for 50 years, had surrendered her documents and had no desire to get behind the wheel of a car again. Lowery had her driving licence disqualified for life.