View Full Version : French driver fined for fatal accident

21-Jun-16, 15:34
"No sum of money can reflect the value of a life lost" - Sheriff tells accused

A FRENCH woman's joy at seeing her son married in Scotland turned to tragedy after she crashed into a car killing its front seat passenger four days later on the A9 in Caithness.

France Lautier was said to have been "devastated and remorseful" at what she had done, described in court today as possibly "a moment's inattention" which caused her car to veer onto its wrong side of the road after rounding a slight right-hand bend - with the fatal consequences..

The woman who died, was 72 year old Elizabeth Williams from Thurso. Lautier, 64, was subsequently charged with causing her death by careless driving and pleaded guilty on indictment. The accused and her husband and daughter-in-law, along with a few of the wedding guests were heading north on June 20, last year to catch the ferry to Orkney where they planned doing some sightseeing.

The party were were travelling in three cars in bright, misty weather, when the accident occurred at Ramscraigs two miles south of Dunbeath village on the east coast of Caithness. Wick Sheriff Court was told that for some "inexplicable" reason Lautieer, driving the lead car, crossed over the centre white line into the path of a Jaguar driven by Mrs Williams' husband, Alfred, also aged 72. However, Wick Sheriff Court was told there was no question of her having been confused by the UK practice of driving on the right side of roads. She had driven on both sides of the road in various countries.

Lautier's left hand drive Ford-C Max caught the rear offside of Mr Williams vehicle which spun round, in the impact, collided with a stone wall and came to rest across the northbound lane. Mrs Williams died at the scene from multiple injuries.

The court heard yesterday from defence solicitor, Jim Reid, who who referred the wedding at the Loch Ness Hotel, that brought the Lautier family and their friends to Scotland.

Mr Reid said: "One minute they were proceeding normally in a line of three vehicles...then Madame Lautier suddenly became conscious of encroaching over the white lines and immediately pulled the steering wheel to the left... that was too late. She clearly accepts the accident was her fault but can't explain how it came about, other than a moment's inattention. It seems to be the only explanation here. It is very difficult to find any other reason."

Mr Reid said there was no question of speed, mechanical fault, or tiredness having been factors. Madame Lautier had been splitting the driving with her husband who had been reading a road map prior to the collision. The two passengers in the back of their car were Russians who had no English so there was no conversation distraction. The solicitor added: "The accused was not using her mobile phone and there was no pressure on time either".

As Mr Williams and two of his grandaughters listened in the public benches Mr Reid went on to stress that Madame Lautier had been "devastated" by the consequences of the accident.

He went on: "She realises the loss and grief she has caused the Williams family. She lives in a small village near Toulouse and is herself a mother and a grandmother and to that extent appreciates what she has caused here. She is devastated and remorseful. For several months after the tragedy she was unable to drive."

Mr Reid made the point that with her husband being a military man Madame Lautier had lived in various countries where he was posted and was well used to driving on both side of the road. She was and experienced driver with a clean licence.

Mr Williams' two grandaughters wept in the public benches as Sheriff Andrew Berry imposed a fine of 4,500 on Lautier and banned her from driving in this country for a year.

However, the Williams family indicated afterwards that they did not wish to make any comment.

Earlier, Sheriff Andrew Berry said that no-one involved in the case could fail to be greatly saddened by the tragic events of June 20th last year.

He went on: "It is clear that the dreadful consequences went far beyond what the level of driving might have resulted in, in most circumstances."

The sheriff added it was quite clear that the tragedy would remain with Lautier "most likely for the rest of your life".

Sheriff Berry told the accused that he had to consider many aspects of the case, not least the victim Mrs Williams and "the many others affected by her loss". However, Lautier had been responsible for careless driving, not the more serious charge of dangerous driving.

The sheriff concluded that the punishment should be a financial one but added: "I have to make it clear that no sum of money could possible reflect the value of the life that has been lost."

There was a poignant moment as Lautier made her way to the door of the court. She paused and before moving on placed her hand on Mr Williams arm, seated at the front of the public benches.

In addition to the fine, the accused will have to resit and pass an extended driving test, before she can drive in this country.