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Woman spared jail after killing best friend in car crash

Jean Barnett, 79, who pleaded guilty to death by dangerous driving following a car crash which killed one of her best friends, Linda Pyers Credit: Teesside Live

An elderly woman has been spared jail for killing her best friend in a car crash. Jean Barnett, 79, had faced prison after driving the wrong way down a dual-carriage way and smashing into an on coming van.

Tragically, her friend Linda Pyers, 71, who had been in the passenger seat, did not recover from the injuries she sustained in the accident and died in hospital.

Barnett, of Sunnyside, Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough, appeared at Teesside Crown Court on Thursday to be sentenced by Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC. She had faced prison after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to causing the death by dangerous driving.

But Barnett was spared jail and given a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and a ten-year driving ban. The accident happened on the A174 Parkway, Middlesbrough, close to the turn-off for Coulby Newham, on January 26.

Former police civilian worker Barnett drove her Toyota Avensis the wrong way down a slip-road, then tried to rectify her mistake by joining the dual-carriageway, but was hit by an oncoming Volkswagen Transporter van.

Great-grandmother Mrs Pyers suffered chest and other injuries, but died in James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Prosecutor Nick Dry said two other drivers coming the other way up the slip-road flashed their lights to try to alert Barnett "to the peril".

Andrew Nuttall, mitigating, told the court that Barnett would be having open-heart surgery within the next few weeks if she was not locked up.

Linda Pyers, 71, who had been in the passenger seat, did not recover from the injuries Credit: Cleveland Police

She is terrified about this operation, but there really is no choice. She has to have it."

– Andrew Nuttall, mitigating