A 23-year-old engineer has been spared jail after being convicted of causing the death of his ‘bright and beautiful’ girlfriend through careless driving.
Richard Bromley wept in the dock as he was given a suspended sentence at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday (June 28) for his part in causing the fatal crash which claimed the life of Claudia Williams.
Bromley, of Daniell Way in Great Boughton, was at the wheel when his Vauxhall Corsa left School Lane in Guilden Sutton and collided with a tree at around 9.40pm on June 24, 2013.
Former West Cheshire College student Miss Williams, who was in the passenger seat but had not been wearing a seatbelt, tragically passed away from her injuries.
A three-week trial held at Warrington Crown Court in May culminated in the jury returning a majority verdict of guilty for one count of causing death by careless driving, but Bromley was cleared of a more serious charge of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs.
He admitted drinking three and a half pints of lager at The Old Trooper pub in Christleton with Miss Williams and her family between 6pm and 9pm on the night of the collision but insisted throughout his trial that the crash had been caused by her shoving his left arm during an argument, causing the car to veer off the road.
A heartbreaking victim impact statement by Miss Williams’ mum Andrea Williams was read aloud to the court in which she revealed a ‘living nightmare’ was now her reality.
Ms Williams said her ‘whole world fell apart’ on the night her eldest daughter – who she called her ‘best friend’ – died and she now suffers from severe anxiety, panic attacks and depression.
“Every second of every hour of every long day my heart is broken,” she said.
“I miss her so much more than words could ever express.
“I still expect to hear her bounce through the door asking her ‘mum, what’s for tea?’.
“Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and Easter – the year is full of painful reminders that Claudia is gone.
“I feel so guilty if I even smile. I feel like I am simply surviving.”
Sentencing Bromley, Judge Neil Flewitt QC said he was satisfied that the alcohol Bromley consumed impaired his judgment and contributed to his inability to control his car, but that his decision to drive after drinking three and a half pints of lager was ‘only one of a number of factors which contributed to the accident’.
“Had you not been affected by alcohol and distracted by the argument and driving too fast you would not have lost control of the vehicle and Claudia Williams would still be alive,” Judge Flewitt said.
“Claudia Williams was a bright and beautiful young woman who was loved by all who knew her.
“Her untimely death was a tragedy from which her family and friends are unlikely to recover.”
Judge Flewitt explained he was suspending the 15-month prison sentence for two years because of Bromley’s age at the time of the incident, his good character and clean driving record; his relationship with Miss Williams; what he called the ‘real possibility’ that Miss Williams contributed in some way to Bromley’s loss of control of the vehicle; the fact that Miss Williams would have survived if she had been wearing a seatbelt; and the delay in bringing the case to a conclusion.
Bromley was also handed a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work.
He has been disqualified from driving for three years.