independent.ie– A mother who was showing off in an unroadworthy car before causing a “catastrophic” head-on crash which killed her three-year-old and her teenage cousin has been jailed.
Mary Stokes, 23, an uninsured and unlicensed driver, had five passengers in her Peugeot 206 which had been sold for scrap after failing its MOT, a court heard.
Two small children were not in child seats during her “persistent” spell of bad driving on the A1068 near Horden, County Durham, last September, Durham Crown Court was told.
Her three-year-old daughter Kelsey was thrown from the car and was killed, Richard Bennett, prosecuting, said.
The defendant’s 17-year-old cousin Shauna Stokes, who was travelling in the back of the car, died in hospital the following day, having been thrown halfway out of the car.
Three other under-18s were seriously injured in the crash, as was the driver of a Mercedes van which the Peugeot 206 hit head-on.
Stokes admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and five counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
She was jailed for three years and eight months and disqualified from driving for seven years.
Mr Bennett told the court: “All these offences relate to a catastrophic road traffic collision caused by the defendant’s dangerous driving on the afternoon of Wednesday September 2 2020.
“The defendant did not hold a driving licence and was not
insured to drive the vehicle.”
Earlier that day, Stokes was seen driving the Peugeot erratically in a leisure centre car park with two young children in the vehicle.
And moments before the fatal incident, other road users saw the car being driven “at speed” along the A1068 before she had to slow for a line of traffic.
After Stokes, from Cario Street, Sunderland but originally from County Derry, then carried out a U-turn and headed off in the opposite direction, one driver commented the car was sure to hit something.
Another driver, who swerved out of her way, felt she must have been in a police pursuit, such was the manner of her driving.
Stokes tried to overtake a vehicle, lost control and crashed into the van around half a mile away from the U-turn site.
People who stopped to help were confronted with seven casualties – six from the Peugeot and one from the van it hit, Mr Bennett said.
The van driver was rushed to hospital and had to remain left immobile for three months while he recovered from injuries to his wrist, sternum and toes.
Stokes was also trapped, having suffered serious leg injuries, and she now requires crutches to walk.
David Outterside, defending, said Stokes was “bereft” at the loss of her daughter and cousin.
Once an “effervescent character”, she was now suffering from “crippling depression and grief”, he said.
She was a teenage mother, married at 16 although the relationship was now over, and will remain vulnerable following the crash, he said.
Judge James Adkin said she appeared to have focused on giving the occupants a thrill, throwing them around in the car, rather than “shielding them from harm”.
He told Stokes: “There is evidence you were showing off to the passengers in your car that day.”
And he said: “This was persistent and it was deliberate bad driving.”
Outside court, Sergeant Cat Iley said: “This was a horrific incident for all those involved, including the emergency service workers who attended the scene.
“Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of the two girls who tragically lost their lives in this collision.”