April 2015

Teenage driver jailed for killing girl while speeding with cannabis in his system


A teenage driver has been jailed for four years for causing the death by dangerous driving of a 14-year-old girl as she walked to school.

Robert Blackwell, 19, was speeding and had traces of cannabis in his system when his Citroen C2 struck Liberty Baker in Witney, Oxfordshire, on the morning of June 30.

He received a text message on his iPhone from his girlfriend shortly before the crash which prosecutors described as the “source of distraction” when he was driving.

Blackwell “completely failed” to negotiate a bend, probably because he was “messing about with his phone”, Oxford crown court heard.

After bringing the car to a stop, Blackwell got out and said: “I am sorry. It’s all my fault. It all happened so fast. I just lost control.”

Liberty, a Year 9 pupil at Henry Box School, died later in hospital from her injuries, while two 14-year-old girls and a 54-year-old man, Paul Cracknell, were also injured in the collision.

Mr Cracknell suffered serious leg injuries and is still being treated in hospital as an outpatient, and has only been able to return to work part-time.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is standing as an MP for Witney, sent his condolences to Liberty’s family following the crash.

Blackwell was jailed after earlier pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving, Thames Valley Police said.

He appeared tearful as he was taken down to the cells as the packed public gallery remained silent.

Mitigating, Claire Fraser said Blackwell denied being distracted by the text message and said the cannabis in his bloodstream had no effect on his driving.

Ms Fraser said he told a probation officer he knew he had to go to prison, adding: “I need to be punished, I understand.”

Blackwell, of Hayway Lane, Weald, was also banned from driving for five years.

Speaking outside court surrounded by family and friends, Liberty’s father Paul Baker said they were “devastated” by the short length of the sentence.

Alongside his weeping wife Maureen, Mr Baker said: “We are devastated at the sentence which has been handed out today.

“This man’s actions cost my daughter her life and we will have to live with our loss every single day. He is only likely to spend a few years in prison.

“We will never recover from the cruel and heartbreaking way our beautiful daughter was taken from us.

“Our lives will never be the same again.”

Judge Ian Pringle said the young driver’s speed – 44mph in a 30mph zone – was “grossly excessive.”

As he locked up Blackwell for four years, he said nothing he could say or do would stop the “everlasting pain and grief of those who have to live with the loss of Liberty”.

Liberty’s younger brother, 11-year-old Finlay, wrote a statement in which he said there was now “a big hole in our family circle”.

In a poem read to the court by prosecutor Ian Hope, Finlay wrote: “There is a new angel in the sky.

“Those special memories of you will always make me smile. If I could have you back just for a while.

“It’s been a year since you passed away, I still think of you every day in my own special way.

“I hate not knowing for sure what happens when you die. But I really love to believe, there is heaven past the sky.”