Lancashire

Naomi Jones cleared of causing death by dangerous driving

A woman who admitted killing her best friend in a car crash has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

Naomi Jones's car hit a tree near Blackpool Airport in July 2011, leaving her 17-year-old passenger Elysia Ashworth with fatal injuries.

Jones, 19, from Wesham, was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving at Preston Crown Court.

She will be sentenced for causing death by careless driving, which she previously admitted, at a later date.

Miss Ashworth died two days after the crash, in which she suffered multiple injuries. A second passenger, Ellen Richardson, suffered two fractured vertebrae.

'Deeply upsetting'

The court heard that Jones and Miss Ashworth had been close friends since the age of 13 and had regularly had sleepovers at each other's houses.

Following the verdict, Judge Christopher Cornwall said it had been a "deeply upsetting case" and that it was "more likely than not" that Jones would be given a prison term.

Previously, prosecutors had alleged Jones had driven too fast as her vehicle approached a blind bend on Division Lane on 11 July.

Answering that claim, Jones had said she failed to negotiate the bend after hitting two bumps in the road in quick succession but could not remember her exact speed.

'Sense of injustice'

An accident investigator later examined the scene and estimated the speed at point of impact with the tree was between 30mph and 35mph.

The jury in the three-day trial deliberated for an hour before delivering the not guilty verdict.

Judge Cornwall said he had read "utterly eloquent" and "deeply, deeply sad" statements from Miss Ashworth's mother and father.

Addressing Jones, he said he wanted to "make it plain that all sentencing options are open up to and including immediate loss of liberty".

He added that "the fact of the matter is that a sense of injustice exists because a life is simply allowed to continue, I know not as before, and Elysia's has ended".

Jones was granted bail until sentencing on a later date.

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