Phone texts woman faces jail for death crash

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The Independent Online

A woman who sent and received more than 20 texts before she hit and killed another motorist was found guilty today of causing death by dangerous driving.

Phone records show that Philippa Curtis, 21, of The Street, Icklingham, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, sent and received the messages before she hit the back of a stationary car at 70mph, killing its driver.

Today, at Oxford Crown Court, a jury found her guilty of causing the death of Victoria McBryde, 24, of Horton, Northamptonshire.

After hearing the verdict, Judge Julian Hall told Curtis she would "almost certainly" receive a prison sentence.

As the unanimous verdict was read out, Curtis broke down in tears.

In the public gallery, her family wept as Judge Hall granted Curtis bail pending sentencing.

He said: "I tell you this, that in granting you bail, I don't give you any promise at all about what the sentence will be.

"It will almost certainly be a sentence in prison."

Curtis had been on her way to stay with her boyfriend in Oxford on November 20 last year when she collided with Miss McBryde's Peugeot 106.

Miss McBryde, who had stopped to deal with a burst tyre, was pronounced dead from a brain injury after her car was forced off the road and on to a piece of concrete.

The court heard that Curtis made the two-hour journey to Oxford on a dark evening when the roads were wet and after a day's work at a restaurant in Suffolk.

The waitress, who said she had been "hyper" as she set off at 9pm, made various calls as she was driving and sent more than 20 text messages to a number of friends using the predictive text facility on her flip-top phone.

As she arrived in Oxford, she made a quick call to her boyfriend which, she said, did not go through.

She then dialled a taxi firm so she could arrange an onward journey from a park-and-ride.

But shortly after making the call she collided with Miss McBryde, who was sitting in her car, waiting for assistance.

Curtis, who only suffered an arm injury, spun into oncoming traffic, hitting two more vehicles, a white van and an Asda lorry, the court was told.

But the brunette, who wept as she gave evidence, said she had thought there were times when using a phone while driving was acceptable.

She told the court: "I didn't think I should be chatting away when manoeuvring roundabouts, but in the right conditions..."

She also said she "probably would have slowed down" when sending the messages which she claimed she could do without taking her eyes off the road.

Curtis, who showed regret for what had happened, said: "I can't really describe in words how bad I actually feel.

"I just feel awful that I was involved and I can't really imagine how the family must feel."

Defending, Richard Latham QC said Curtis had not touched her phone since calling the taxi firm and so it had not presented a distraction in the moments before the crash.

But today the jury of six men and six women decided this was not the case.

Addressing Curtis, Judge Hall said: "I want to know as much as possible about you.

"The Probation Service will help me by writing a report, the first stage of which is that you should see a probation officer before you leave. You can have bail in the meantime."

The judge thanked the jury and said: "There we go, members of the jury, a horrid case to try."

He added: "I am sorry you won't see the eventual outcome because it is your case as much as mine."

The judge also banned Curtis from driving while she was on bail.