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NOT GUILTY: Driver cleared of causing friend’s death in crash on M1 near St Albans

 Published on: 3rd December 2020   |   By: News Bulletin   |   Category: Uncategorized

A young woman driver accused of causing the death of a friend after pulling over onto a motorway hard shoulder in a row over petrol money near St Albans, was today (Thursday, December 3) cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

Christalla Amphlett, now 22, stopped her Renault Twingo on the M1 when an argument broke out after a girls’ night out.

St Albans Crown Court heard the car had been stationary, for a second time, on the northbound hard shoulder of the motorway, just south of Junction 6 at Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire, when an Isuzu D-Max driven by Bradley Lane careered into the back.

Teenager Chloe Palmer, 19, the rear off-side passenger suffered a severe brain injury and died days later.

Maisie O’Flynn, who was on the back seat nearside seat next to Chloe, received serious injuries, but survived the crash.  Keziah Knight, who had been the front seat passenger, was out of the car and sitting on the metal safety barrier.

Christalla Amphlett herself was treated for a bleed on the brain, a broken jaw and broken neck.

Prosecutor Wayne Cleaver said it was likely Lane had fallen asleep at the wheel of his vehicle. He said he had earlier pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Christalla Amphlett, now 22, but who was 19 at the time, pleaded not guilty causing the death by dangerous driving of Chloe, in the early hours of November 25, 2017. She stood in the jury box with her hands crossed over her chest and cried as the jury found her not guilty.

Opening the case, Mr Cleaver said she had parked close to the inside lane without any illumination or hazard lights flashing. In addition, he said she had opened her door and was sitting with her legs outside the car, prompting one motorist to sound his horn and others to swerve to avoid her car.

On the route he said Christalla and Maisie started arguing about “something as trifling as petrol money.” He said she had agreed to make a detour to St Albans to drop off Maisie but was low on petrol. The passengers were drunk and were beginning to annoy the driver.

“Such was her irritation that she pulled over onto the hard shoulder of the M1 where she remained at a standstill for a few minutes.”

The journey resumed, but further along the motorway the court was told, the defendant again pulled over onto the hard shoulder and stopped the car for after the argument about petrol money had started up again. After 17 minutes the crash happened.

In the witness box Christall Amphlett of Symphony Close, Edgware told the jury she was a full time support worker for 16 to 19 year olds and at the time of the fatal crash had been driving a private ambulance at the weekends. She had been unable to work for a year because of the injuries she received.

Asked by Richard Dawson, defending, what she could remember she said: “I remember Maisie could not get home. I remember I had to drop her home.

“I just remember there was an argument. I just remember shouting. I had to stop. I did not feel it was safe to continue.”

She said she did not recall what the argument was about, but she said she assumed it was about petrol money. “I did not have enough petrol to do other drop offs. I assume I was stressed out about that,” she said.

When she found out about Chloe’s death, she said she screamed.

Chloe Palmer, who lived with her family in Finchley, North London was removed from the rear of the Renault and initially taken to Watford General Hospital, before being transferred to St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington.

She had sustained a pulmonary contusion, a complex pelvic fracture, fracture to the left leg, and an acute brain injury. She underwent intensive surgical intervention, but the injures to her brain were so severe that she died in December 2017.

Mr Cleaver had earlier told the jury: “These are unusual circumstances since, as you will have appreciated, at the time of the collision her car was not moving.

“Nevertheless, the prosecution case is that she was driving; that driving was dangerous; and it was a contributory cause of the collision,” he said.

He said hard shoulders of motorways were only to be used in circumstances where it was necessary and unavoidable.

The jury was told by PC Seb Jackson, who investigated the crash, that’s Rule 270 of the Highway Code states drivers must not stop on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or when told to do so by police or traffic officers in uniform.

At the end of the case Judge Richard Foster thanked the seven women and five men on the jury saying: “It was a very difficult and challenging case.”

Picture credit: South Beds News Agency

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