Glasgow & West Scotland

Driver James Neill has jail term cut over Natasha Clark death

James Neill Image copyright Spindrift
Image caption Neill had been driving at speeds of up to 110mph before the crash

A man who admitted causing the death of a teenage girl by dangerous driving in a high-speed crash in Argyll has had his jail term cut by appeal judges.

James Neill, 36, from Tarbert, Argyll, crashed his Honda Civic on the A83, near Erines, on 20 August 2012.

His three passengers were injured, including 17-year-old Natasha Clark, who later died in hospital.

Neill claimed his nine-year jail term was too harsh. Appeal judges reduced it to seven years and eights months.

Lady Clark of Calton, who heard the appeal at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh with Lady Cosgrove, said: "In this case we are in no doubt that a lengthy custodial sentence was appropriate."

The judges decided, however, that the jail term should be cut by taking a different starting point for the sentence and applying a greater discount for Neill's guilty plea.

Plea discount

Lady Clark said: "We consider that the sentencing judge did not give full effect to the obvious benefits of the guilty plea in a case such as this."

Neill's lawyers had argued that the guilty plea had avoided the need for witnesses to give evidence about "the very distressing events".

When Neill was originally jailed, he was also banned from driving for 15 years and ordered to take an extended test before getting behind the wheel again.

A previous hearing at the High Court in Paisley heard how he was repeatedly told to slow down and "stop pushing it" by his three passengers.

Neill lost control of the car as it entered a bend heading towards Tarbert. It was later estimated he had been driving in excess of 70mph at the time.

The vehicle spun over to the side of the road and hit a huge boulder, then bounced back into the centre of the road.

The force of the impact trapped Ms Clark and her friend Sandra Harvey, who were in the back seat.

Passengers injured

Neill and his friend Sean McGregor, who were in the front, received minor injuries.

Ms Clark, who worked as a shop assistant at the Co-op in Lochgilphead, was airlifted to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, but died the following day from multiple injuries.

Ms Harvey suffered a broken leg and a suspected spinal injury.

The court heard that in the immediate aftermath of the crash, Mr McGregor rushed back to try to help the two women and shouted to Neill to get help.

At this point Neill said: "I wasn't speeding."

Neill then used his mobile phone to call a friend. He told her he had crashed the car and asked if she could come and get him.

Minutes later other cars stopped at the scene. One of the drivers called the emergency services and then helped a medical student to assist Ms Clark until the paramedics arrived.

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