Driver who killed Keith pharmacy worker Leigh-Anne Wood after causing crash while on phone call sentenced to 300 hours community service
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A DRIVER who killed a young mother on her way to work while he was on a bluetooth mobile phone call to his wife avoided prison when he appeared for sentence at Inverness Sheriff Court.
The car being driven by Leigh-Anne Wood (28) had slowed down, but was hit from the rear and pushed into the path of an oncoming lorry and was killed instantly on the A96 between Elgin and Keith.
Former care assistant Robert Macdonald (32) was ordered to carry out the maximum 300 hours of unpaid community work and banned from driving for three years when he appeared earlier today.
Leigh-Anne's father, Duncan Smart and 17 other members of her family were in the public gallery to hear he must resit an extended driving test and be supervised by social workers for two years.
They shook their heads on hearing Sheriff Robert Frazer and some burst into tears. Sheriff Frazer had expressed his condolences to the family.
Outside the court, Mr Smart said: "The sentence was more lenient than we expected. But we were primed it may be in the community. The family will never come to terms with this. Nothing will bring Leigh-Anne back.
"We have to move on. The biggest feeling is for her daughter Charlotte who will grow up without her mum. We are all just numb."
Sheriff Frazer criticised Macdonald for being on a phone call, and said "what happened was nothing short of a tragic incident whereby you failed to observe Mrs Wood's car slowing its speed and failed in your duty to fully concentrate on the road ahead."
He said he decided against a prison sentence because of Macdonald's clean driving record, the effect it has had on his health and he had shown remorse.
Lawyer, Grant Daglish, read out a statement on Macdonald's behalf.
"A split second changed the lives of so many people that day, leaving a child without a mother and a husband without a wife. I have struggled emotionally since that fateful day and I will live with it for the rest of my life.
"Caring for others has always been important to me. I would do anything to change the events of that day. I am not a bad person."
Mr Daglish asked Sheriff Frazer to impose a community based sentence, saying:"The level of carelessness is not the highest the court has seen. We do not have a man who was driving dangerously or recklessly.
"He was relatively inexperienced, didn't appreciate the situation and didn't react quickly enough. It is a heavy burden he must bear for the rest of his life but nothing like that of Mrs Wood's family."
The court had heard that Macdonald was on a hands-free call in his Audi A3 to his wife, Deborah, on April 28, 2020
when he collided with the rear of Leigh-Anne's Peugeot 208. Her car was pushed to the other side of the single carriageway and then collided with an oncoming tipper van, propelling it backwards.
Leigh-Anne, the eldest of four siblings brought up in Dufftown, died instantly from serious head and neck injuries and a passenger in the tipper truck suffered a broken knee cap.
Macdonald of St Andrew's Square, Elgin had previously admitted causing the death of the keen dancer and university Honours graduate and the serious injury of Edward Dunbar by careless driving.
Fiscal depute Niall Macdonald told the court the accident occurred near an overtaking lane on the A96 between Fochabers and Keith in an area known locally as "the Dramlachs."
The prosecutor added: "He had not been maintaining proper, adequate observations on the road ahead of him nor in particular to the Peugeot being driven by Leigh-Anne.
"He failed to appreciate his car was closing in on the rear of Leigh-Anne's car, nor did he react in time to prevent his car from colliding with the rear of her car.
"The collision changed the direction in which she was travelling and her car was pushed from the south-bound lane across the road and into the northbound lane into the path of the Ford Transit." Mr Macdonald said the driver of the Transit tried to swerve to avoid the second collision but neither he nor Leigh-Anne had sufficient time to react. Police experts assessed that Macdonald was driving at 20-30mph faster than Leigh-Anne at the time and at least 49mph and 46mph, according to a car sensor which stopped working when damaged.
"The collision investigators conclude the presence of the delivery van in the lay-by may have influenced Leigh-Anne's driving, in that she may have slowed and exercised caution in anticipation that the van may become a hazard. Her Peugeot was in a slight off-side position within the southbound lane but the experts felt there was nothing inappropriate with her speed or positioning." the fiscal added.
He told Sheriff Robert Frazer that there was no evidence Macdonald was travelling at excessive speed and it was likely he was distracted by making the phone call.
The fiscal went added that other motorists tried to help Leigh-Anne and police officers who arrived soon after performed CPR but to no avail. Paramedics also tried in vain for 25 minutes to revive her.
Sheriff Frazer was told that the victim's 32-year-old husband, Lee, was in shock for a substantial period after his wife's death and it was two months before he could return to work as a rough-caster. He looks after his three year old daughter.