Drug driver jailed for crash death - Bedfordshire

07/08/2012

A drug dealer who fell asleep at the wheel killing his 17-year-old girl passenger in a high speed crash was jailed for 7 and a half years on Tuesday, 07 August 2012.

Matthew Norcott, 27, was under the influence of ecstasy and had only 5 and a half hours sleep in the previous 47 hours when he hit a central reservation on a dual carriageway at 83 miles an hour as they headed to a party.

The Ford Fiesta rolled over five or six times, throwing 17-year-old Lara Smith into a field,  before it ended up on its roof in a ditch.

Peter Shaw, for the Crown Prosecution Service at Luton Crown Court, said the crash happened at ten to seven in the morning of Sunday, 13 November last year on the A421 at Lidlington in Bedfordshire.

The car drifted into the concrete barrier that separates on-coming traffic. It veered to the side of the road and turned over onto its roof.

Lara, a back seat passenger, suffered severe injuries and died at 10.48 that morning. The other passengers Jack Brant and John Long were treated for minor injuries.

Norcott had a broken elbow. When he was treated at the hospital 13 ecstasy tablets were found on him.

At the time of the crash Norcott, a bricklayer and farm worker, knew he was not insured. The car belonged to his now pregnant girlfriend Charlie Monroe.

Mr Shaw said at 1am that morning Ms Monroe had driven Norcott and Mr Brant to Bristol. The defendant drove back at 3am, arriving in Pershore at 4am. After dropping Ms Monroe off he went off in the pick up John Long and Lara Smith. They set off on a long journey to a party at Baldock in Hertfordshire.

"Mr Brant recalled that as they travelled along a dual carriageway that there was a conversation between the three passengers. He then heard someone from the back shouting and he turned to look out to see the car veering across the lanes towards the crash barrier.

"He recalls looking at the defendant and seeing his head 'hanging down' and apparently asleep. Mr Norcott did not appear to be reacting to the urgent situation and therefore Mr Brant tried to grab hold of the steering wheel. However, the car hit the central reservation and he was conscious of the car flipping over," said Mr Shaw.

Lorry driver Stephen Lowther who had parked in a lay-by heard the sound of smashing glass and metal panels and saw the Fiesta rolling 5 or 6 times before coming to rest upside down in the ditch.

Police arrived and saw Norcott in shock and bleeding from a head wound. When asked what happened he said: "I don't know I think I just lost concentration and hit the barrier."

Blood was taken from Norcott who told the police he had taken 2 ecstasy tablets two days before but nothing since. Later he said he had 4 to 6 tablets 27 hours before the crash, but denied taking anything in the 24 hours before. But the prosecutor said the blood has a concentration of ecstasy greater than 0.32 mg per litre.

"This is considered to be a reasonably high dose and consistent with someone having recently taken the drug. The defendant was clearly under the influence of ecstasy," said the prosecutor.

He said PC Ian Marsh examined Norcott's i-phone and was able to conclude that in the previous 47 hours the only significant time of inactivity or possible sleep was 5 and a half hours between 0240 and 0810 on 12 November - the previous day.

The text messages on his phone revealed that Norcott had been dealing in drugs. There were references to Legos - shorthand for ecstasy.

The court was told Norcott had been insured with Admiral, but after a crash in August 2011 in which he had failed to disclose previous motoring convictions the policy was void. He had been informed of this by letter on 30 September.

When interviewed by the police he said he believed he just closed his eyes and rubbed his eyes for a split period of time.

Norcott of Furlong Road, Pershore, Worcestershire pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving whilst unfit through drugs, causing death while uninsured, and possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply.  He had 5 conviction for 11 offences and three cautions. The offences included driving with excess alcohol and driving while disqualified, possessing ecstasy and having no insurance.

Derek Johashen, defending, said Lara had been a family friend and he remembered holding her as a baby when he was 10 years old. He said: "He says he deserves to go to custody. He treated her as a younger sister he never had. His own ridiculously bad behaviour led to her demise."

Refering to a letter Norcott wrote, Judge Michael Baker QC said: "He said he just kept an eye out for her to make sure she did not slip off with the wrong people. Of all the wrong people he must be high up on the list."

Mr Johashen went on to say Norcott had raised £1500 in Lara's memory saying: "His overriding concern is to express his own grief, remorse and concern for what he has done."

Jailing him Judge Baker said: "I doubt very much you have any real understanding of the damage you have inflicted on Lara's family. They are plainly devastated and will remain so for ever."

The judge said no sentence could replace a life which was "immeasurably valuable."

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