Woman’s 'micro-sleep' is 'likely cause' of horror crash which killed couple

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Ellen Charlotte Leslie, 55, pleaded guilty to two charges when she appeared at Carlisle Crown Court on Tuesday 24 October . Credit: Court Reporter

A woman who caused the death of a husband and wife in an A66 horror crash has been told an immediate prison sentence is the “almost inevitable” punishment.

Ellen Charlotte Leslie, 55, pleaded guilty to two charges when she appeared at Carlisle Crown Court on Tuesday 24 October .

Leslie admitted causing the deaths of both Steven and Christine Goodings, from Sunderland, by driving dangerously on the road close to Warcop — between Appleby and Brough — in May last year.

The couple were travelling behind Leslie, in their Volkswagen Golf, as an HGV headed in the opposite direction.

Defence barrister Ann Crighton said of Leslie: “For five seconds she went over the double white lines in the middle of the road and into the path of the lorry which lost control.

"As a result of that, Mr and Mrs Goodings tragically died.”

Mrs Goodings died at the scene while her husband was left in a critical condition and died in hospital several weeks later, on 16 June.

Ms Crighton told the court: “There is no doubt that my client was responsible for the accident and she accepts full responsibility.”

She said it was “likely” that Leslie had a “micro-sleep” behind the wheel, although the exact reason her vehicle crossed the lines would remain a mystery.

Ms Crighton continued: “She has no idea and nobody else in the world has either.

“It could be she just went into a daze. It could be that something distracted her. She, of course, suffered life-changing injuries.

"She doesn’t know what happened.”

Relatives of Mr and Mrs Goodings, who left two adult sons, listened to proceedings in court from the public gallery.

The case was adjourned for the preparation of a probation service pre-sentence report. 

But before Leslie is sentenced, a judge is poised to hear evidence to settle a subtle but significant dispute in the prosecution and defence cases which would affect the severity of the sentence.

The prosecution alleges Leslie was sleep-deprived at the time of the tragedy. However, Leslie maintains she had more sleep than usual on the night before she drove.

Assuming that dispute remains, evidence will be given in court early next year before a judge makes a ruling and proceeds to sentence.

Victim impact statements from Mr and Mrs Goodings’ loved ones will be requested for the eventual sentencing hearing.

As a result of her guilty pleas, Leslie now faces a mandatory driving ban which, Judge Michael Fanning ruled, should start immediately.

Ms Crighton told the court: “My client has never driven since and has no intention of ever driving again.”

As Judge Fanning granted Leslie, from South London, unconditional bail until her next court appearance, he told her: “You accept that by your dangerous driving you caused the death of Steven and Christine Goodings.

"You are responsible for that as a result of your driving. This is not an accident. This is worse than that.”

The judge added: “You have to understand there is an almost inevitable outcome and this is an immediate prison sentence.”

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