A mother-of-two who killed a pensioner after swerving onto the wrong side of the road escaped a jail sentence today because a judge ruled it would interfere with her family life.
Anna-Marie Strachan, 29, from Fraserburgh, was convicted of causing the death of 73-year-old James Thomson by dangerous driving on the A90 near Rathen, Aberdeenshire, on 31 July 2014.
Yesterday, at the High Court in Glasgow judge Lady Stacey ordered Strachan to perform 300 hours unpaid work in the community and banned her from driving for eight years.
Defence counsel Gavin Anderson successfully argued that it would be a breach of article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights to imprison Strachan.
Mr Anderson said: “A prison sentence would interfere with the private and family life not only of Mrs Strachan, but also her husband Derek and their two children.”
The defence counsel said that Strachan’s 10-year-old daughter, who has been diagnosed with dyslexia, needed her mother there to help with her homework, as her husband also has dyslexia.
He also said that if Strachan were jailed, her husband a bus driver may lose his job and they may be unable to pay their mortgage and lose their family home.
Sentencing Strachan, Lady Stacey said: “This is a very difficult case for me and I have thought long and hard about it.”
She told Strachan, who sat weeping in the dock: “Nothing I can do today can lessen the grief of the family of Mr Thomson. Nothing I say is trying to evaluate Mr Thomson’s life.
“I have decided that it is not necessary to imprison you.
“I am well aware there have been cases of mothers with children being sent to prison.
“My reasons are you are the mother of two young children aged five and 10 and you are their main carer.
“I accept your husband can’t work the hours he works now and look after two young children and I am told there are no other family members who can look after the children.”
Lady Stacey also said that Strachan, who was injured in the crash, is not in good health and would require a cell to be specially adapted to her needs.
The judge added: “Your daughter is concerned about her homework and while her teachers feel she is coping quite well, they have noticed some change in her behaviour.
“Your son is five and due to start school this year. It is important he has the support of both parents.”
First offender Strachan apologised to the Thomson family through her defence counsel.
Mr Anderson said: “She offers them her heartfelt apology. She thinks about the collision every day and expects to think about it every day going forward.”
Mr Thomson’s wife Frances, 71, and two young children in Strachan’s car and Strachan, who now walks with a stick, were all injured in the crash.
Strachan, who was driving a Peugeot 308, suddenly veered into the path of Mr Thomson’s car.
A motorist travelling behind Strachan on the Fraserburgh to Peterhead road described the crash as an “explosion of plastic”.
Strachan went on trial accused of causing the collision after consuming prescription drugs and holding a phone, but both allegations were later deleted from the charge.
The court was told that there was no record of Strachan having made or received a phone call or text message when the crash happened and the medication she took had no effect on the incident.
She told a paramedic who arrived at the scene that she was taking pain relief for chronic back pain.
Mr Anderson added: “The accused will carry with her for the rest of her life the heavy burden that she has taken the life of another.”
He told the court that she has not driven since the collision and does not want to drive again.
Strachan refused to comment as she left court and was driven away in a black 4×4.