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Van driver killed woman by overtaking on blind crest

Mother-of-three Audrey Thom died following the crash on the A914 in Fife.

Audrey Thom: The 58-year-old killed in the crash in November 2015.
Audrey Thom: The 58-year-old killed in the crash in November 2015.

A van driver caused the death of a mother-of-three after overtaking a car while approaching a blind crest and crashing into another car.

Andrew Reilly, 29, was jailed for four years after he pleaded guilty to causing the death of 58-year-old Audrey Thom by driving his van dangerously on November 24, 2015.

He made no attempt to brake or steer to avoid the head-on collision with the second car, in which Mrs Thom was a passenger.

The driver of the car, Mrs Thom's daughter, Louise, was confronted with Reilly's van heading directly at her on her side of the road.

Ms Thom, 27, had just enough time to brake hard but the crash still occurred on the A914 Balmullo to Dairsie road in Fife.

Emergency services took Ms Thom and her mother to hospital but the older woman's condition worsened and she later died.

Advocate depute Adrian Cottam told the High Court in Edinburgh: "Louise Thom was unable to take evasive action as there were trees on the left hand side of the road and another vehicle in the carriageway on the right."

"As she stated she had in effect 'nowhere to go'."

Mr Cottam said police investigating the collision concluded Reilly had decided to carry out a late overtaking manoeuvre as he approached the blind crest and got to solid white lines on the road, driving on to the opposite side.

The prosecutor said: "For an unknown reason he did not see, or ignored, the warning arrows and the solid white lines prohibiting him from overtaking."

Police also reached the view that Reilly either did not see or did not react to the sight of Ms Thom's headlights until it was too late to avoid the collision.

'There is no escaping the gravity of what you have done and the dreadful consequences which flow from it. When all is said and done, a woman has lost her life, has been taken from her family and there is no diminishing the emptiness and grief of that.'
Sheriff Michael O'Grady QC

Sheriff Michael O'Grady QC told Reilly: "This court has emphasised time and again, that driving of this sort is so obviously dangerous and foolhardy and irresponsible.

"It has time and again warned young men of the consequences for others and indeed them, and yet I sometimes despair that that message will ever be heeded."

The judge added: "Of cases such as this it is invariably said - because it is invariably true - that they are especially tragic.

"The court is faced with a young man who has, in a few moments of recklessness, caused the death of another entirely innocent and unsuspecting person."

Mr O'Grady said there was much that weighed in Reilly's favour and he accepted his remorse was genuinely expressed.

He added: "There is no escaping the gravity of what you have done and the dreadful consequences which flow from it.

"When all is said and done, a woman has lost her life, has been taken from her family and there is no diminishing the emptiness and grief of that.

"I should also stress that the sentence I impose does not, nor could it, in some way put a value on Mrs Thom's life. Such things are beyond value and cannot be reflected in any meaningful way."

Four years: Reilly jailed at High Court in Edinburgh.
Four years: Reilly jailed at High Court in Edinburgh. PA

He told Reilly that he would have faced a sentence of five and a half years' imprisonment but for his guilty plea.

Reilly, of Palais Court, Dundee, was also disqualified from driving for eight years and ordered to resit a test.

The court also heard the plumbing and heating engineer had previous convictions for driving without insurance and speeding.

Defence counsel Matt Jackson said Reilly had been working in Fife and was making his way home to Dundee when the crash happened.

He said the father-of-two was aware that the consequences of his actions have had "a horrible impact on so many other people".

Mr Jackson said: "While there are previous convictions for road traffic offences, I do suggest that otherwise he has been a lawful member of society.

"He is very, very sorry for what he has done. He understands that the consequences of his criminality, because that is what it is, have had a terrible effect upon so many others."

"In particular, I am instructed by him to offer his direct apologies to the Thom family."

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