A French tourist who caused a fatal crash in Caithness was yesterday fined £4,500 and banned from the road for year.
France Lautier’s car veered across the road as she drove north on the A9 near Dunbeath, causing a catastrophic collision that resulted inthe death of Thurso pensioner Elizabeth Williams.
Yesterday, Mrs Williams’s family members wept as Lautier was sentenced, after the 64-year-old’s solicitor told the court that she had no idea why she drifted across the road on that fateful day.
Sentencing, Sheriff Andrew Berry said: “It is clear that the dreadful consequences went far beyond what the level of driving might have resulted in, in most circumstances.”
The sheriff added it was quite clear that the tragedy would remain with Lautier “most likely for the rest of your life”.
He added: “I have to make it clear that no sum of money could possible reflect the value of the life that has been lost.”
There was a poignant moment as Lautier made her way to the door of the court. She paused and before moving on placed her arm on the arm of Mrs Williams’s widower Alfred, 72.
Prior to sentencing, Lautier’s solicitor told the court how his client’s joy at seeing her son married in Scotland turned to devastation just a few days later.
Lautier was said to have been “devastated and remorseful” at what she had done, described in court yesterday as possibly “a moment’s inattention” which caused her car to veer onto its wrong side of the road after rounding a slight right-hand bend – with the fatal consequences.
The accused and her husband and daughter-in-law, along with a few other wedding guests, were heading north on June 20, last year to catch the ferry to Orkney where they planned doing some sightseeing.
The party was travelling in three cars in bright, misty weather, when the accident occurred at Ramscraigs two miles south of Dunbeath.
Wick Sheriff Court was told that for some “inexplicable” reason Lautieer, driving the lead car, crossed over the centre white line into the path of a Jaguar with Mrs Williams, 72, in the passenger seat.
Lautier’s left hand drive Ford-C Max caught the rear offside of Mr Williams vehicle which spun round, in the impact, collided with a stone wall and came to rest across the northbound lane. Mrs Williams died at the scene from multiple injuries.
The court heard yesterday from defence solicitor Jim Reid who said: “One minute they were proceeding normally in a line of three vehicles…then Madame Lautier suddenly became conscious of encroaching over the white lines and immediately pulled the steering wheel to the left… that was too late. She clearly accepts the accident was her fault but can’t explain how it came about, other than a moment’s inattention. It seems to be the only explanation here. It is very difficult to find any other reason.”
He went on: “She realises the loss and grief she has caused the Williams family. She lives in a small village near Toulouse and is herself a mother and a grandmother and to that extent appreciates what she has caused here. She is devastated and remorseful. For several months after the tragedy she was unable to drive.”
In addition to the fine, the accused will have to resit and pass an extended driving test, before she can drive in this country.