Jessica death driver is jailed for six years

A DRINK driver who caused a high-speed smash which killed a Drighlington teenager has been jailed for six years at Leeds Crown Court.

Simon Johnson, 30, of Queens Grove, Morley, lost control of his vehicle and smashed into an oncoming car after leaving a pub in the village last year.

His friend Jessica Middlebrook, 17, the front seat passenger, died instantly.

Jessica's young stepbrother Alex, who was playing with a friend at the side of the road, was among the witnesses to the smash, which injured five other people.

Johnson, who had a flawless driving record, admitted causing death by dangerous driving at an earlier hearing.

His barrister Timothy Stead said he was “ordinary, decent and hardworking” and that the amount of alcohol in his blood was “not greatly in excess” of the legal limit.

The court heard that Johnson, Jessica and three male friends had been drinking at the Victoria pub in Drighlington on the evening of September 21.

He had drunk three or four pints of lager before the group left the pub at 8.30pm. They were travelling along Whitehall Road heading for Leeds when Johnson crashed into an oncoming Renault Laguna.

His car skidded on its roof before coming to a stop in front of 11-year-old Alex and his friends.

The youngsters told police the car was “very fast indeed and skidding on two wheels”.

A breath test showed Johnson had 97mgs of alcohol in 100mls of blood, the legal limit being 80.

After the crash, Johnson's first words were: “It was my fault...is she going to be all right?”

Throughout the 50-minute court hearing Johnson sat in the dock with his head bowed.

The gallery was packed with Jessica's family and friends, many of whom burst into tears as the sentence was read out.

Judge Ian Dobkin said it was “impossible” to pass a sentence which could satisfy everybody. He told Johnson: “Here you are, 30 years old, of good character. But you had too much to drink, you lost control of your car and a girl died.”

He also banned Johnson from driving for seven years.

After the sentencing Jessica's mother, Jackie Duffy, said: “When you consider that the maximum sentence is 14 years, then six years is lenient.

“The six years doesn't serve as a deterrent to anyone else who wants to drink and drive.

“The sentence does nothing to alleviate the pain and distress that we will have to endure for the rests of our lives. He knew he had had a drink and then drove like a meathead. I can never, ever forgive him.”

Jessica, of Walton Drive, was a former pupil of Bruntcliffe High School and had recently returned to study at Park Lane College and also worked part time at a local pub.

Over 700 people attended her funeral at Drighlington Parish Church.