Six years for woman who texted on two phones before fatal crash

Police condemn use of two phones while driving at 70mph as astonishing and ‘crass stupidity’

Adam Lusher
Friday 01 August 2014 06:15
Marina Usaceva who has been jailed for six years
Marina Usaceva who has been jailed for six years

A judge condemned motorists who use mobiles while driving as a “plague on society” as he jailed a woman who caused a fatal pile-up after texting and taking calls on two phones while travelling at 70mph.

Judge Sean Enright jailed Marina Usaceva for six years after hearing how her Jaguar X-Type crashed into the back of Sukhdeep Singh Johal’s Peugeot 206, causing the death of the 27-year-old biomedical science graduate.

Outlining a case that shocked even senior police officers, Georgina Gibbs, prosecuting. told Peterborough Crown Court that Usaceva, 31, was using “not one but two phones”.

Usaceva, who is originally from Latvia, insisted to officers at the scene she had not been using a handset at the wheel before the crash.

But Ms Gibbs said a police examination found Usaceva had used a Sony phone to send a text message at 4.15pm and receive a message at 4.17pm on the day of the accident.

In addition, a Samsung phone sent one message, made one phone call and received three incoming calls in the 20 minutes leading up to the crash at about 4.30pm on 15 March last year, on the A47 near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

The court heard that the Jaguar was doing at least 70mph in a 60mph zone but witnesses said it was travelling significantly faster because it braked sharply for a speed camera, hitting the Peugeot and causing a three-vehicle pile-up. Mr Johal, of Leicester, who had recently graduated from De Montfort University, died at the scene.

Usaceva, who had admitted causing death by dangerous driving at an earlier hearing, wept as she was jailed for six years and disqualified from driving for eight years. The court heard she had previously been caught twice using her phone behind the wheel and that her licence was endorsed in 2009 and 2012.

Judge Enright told her: “If you were not sending texts at the time, then you were fiddling with your phone and that is what caused this collision.

“In my opinion there is not a scrap of remorse. Mobile phone use while driving is a plague on our society.”

The extreme nature of Usaceva’s double phone use amazed even senior police officers. Inspector Bob Turner, who oversaw the investigation for Cambridgeshire Police, said: “I have never seen anything like it before – it was crass stupidity.”

Ian Brownhill, in mitigation, said that Usaceva, of Peterborough, was the sole carer for her eight-year-old son, whose father lives in Latvia.

He added: “There is a gap of six minutes – I would say clear water – between using the phones and the accident itself.”

Outside court, Mr Johal’s father Buhupinder said no sentence would be enough to console the family.

He added: “Even 60 years wouldn’t be enough, but this is some kind of justice. The only thing we can hope is that others will learn from this.

“People think nothing of it, but using a mobile phone while driving can kill.”

Describing how his son was rescued from a house fire aged one, after being wrapped in a turban and thrown from a window, he added: “We tell ourselves this was a miracle and we had 26 years with him that we might not have had.”

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