Crash driver spared jail

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A teenage driver who caused the death of her close friend in a Mearns car crash has been spared a custodial sentence.

Megan Mitchell, now 20, wept in the dock on Thursday as she was told she would not be locked up for the 2010 crash that killed 21-year-old Leanne Slesser.

Miss Slesser, who worked with Mitchell at the Laurencekirk Out of School Club, was killed instantly on the A937 Marykirk to Laurencekirk road on August 24 2010.

Mitchell, of Denhead Croft, Fordoun, admitted driving at excessive speed for the road layout and conditions, losing control, crossing the opposite carriageway and crashing into Newton Cottage at Laurencekirk.

When another driver came across the car it was surrounded by smoke. Mitchell was unconscious whilst Miss Slesser, an aspiring medic and former Mearns Academy pupil, did not respond to resuscitation attempts and it emerged she was not wearing a seat belt.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard Mitchell had tried to take her own life after the crash, saying she wanted to be with her friend and had written letters to Miss Slesser every week since her death and placed them on her grave,

Her solicitor advocate, Gail Goodfellow, said Mitchell had only stopped writing to Miss Slesser when she realised the letters had been destroyed and said: “She is clearly going to find it difficult to live with the responsibility for the death of her friend. She will carry that sentence with her forever.”

Mitchell was banned from the road for four years and ordered to do 200 hours community service. She was also sentenced to a five month restriction of liberty order and will have to remain at home every evening.

Sheriff Graeme Napier said there were several powerful mitigating factors - Mitchell was an inexperienced driver, she had also been injured in the accident and had shown genuine remorse. He told her: “The injuries sustained by the deceased might not have been so serious had she not removed her seat belt. She was a colleague and friend. You have effectively already punished yourself.”