A VAN driver who smashed head-on into a pensioners’ car while trying to overtake a lorry in the dark has been jailed for two years - despite a plea for leniency from his victims’ family.
Sarah Stewart, 77, from Moffat died in the collision on the A701 Dumfries to Edinburgh road and her husband, George, then 78, was seriously injured.
At the High Court in Edinburgh today judge Lord Boyd was show testimonials for Edward Beckley - including a letter from Mr Stewart’s nephew, Andrew Dick.
Mr Dick wrote that Beckley, 27, from West Lothian, had made “a wrong judgment call” but had showed integrity after the accident and no purpose would be served by sending him to prison.
Lord Boyd told Beckley: “That letter says much about the family’s capacity for forgiveness. Possibly of more importance from my point of view is that your integrity and sincerity has impressed the family.”
But, said the judge, at the end of the day, Beckley’s conduct had caused the death of Mrs Stewart of Annandale Place, Moffat.
Her death had also robbed Mr Stewart of his wife’s love and support which had affected his independence and quality of life.
“Nothing I do today can compensate the family for their loss.”
Lord Boyd told Beckley: “I take no pleasure in telling you I have concluded I have to send you to prison.”
Beckley was also banned from driving for four years and ordered to resit an extended test.
A trial heard how sales technician Beckley’s Volkswagen van was behind other vehicles which moved out to overtake the slow-moving HGV on a straight section of undulating road near St Anns Bridge.
The first made it safely to the correct side of the road. A second made it “with luck” but Beckley, 27, was unable to avoid a head-on collision with the Ford Fiesta with Mrs Stewart at the wheel.
“I have caused this,” he told police as he tried to help in the aftermath of the crash on March 3 last year.
In court he admitted he was to blame but his plea of guilty to a reduced charge of causing death by careless driving was rejected.
Prosecutors demanded he stand trial and a jury found Beckley of Meikle Inch Lane, Bathgate, guilty, by majority, of causing death by dangerous driving.
Beckley had been heading to visit his grandmother who was in hospital. But he admitted he had no urgent need to overtake the articulated lorry.
He told the trial he had checked the road ahead and thought it was clear.
“As I was passing the wagon the van which was in front of me moved back in front of the wagon.
“There was a car in front of me, coming towards me.”
Beckley said he had been unable to avoid the collision by braking and swerving close to the lorry.
“The next thing I knew I had to climb out of the driver’s door window of the van.”
He was found guilty of attempting to overtake when it was unsafe to do so because the road layout did not give a clear view.
Defence advocate Steven Love said it was a tragic case but Beckley’s driving had been at the lower end of the “dangerous” scale.
He hoped to avoid prison because he wanted to move to the USA to marry his American fiancee and might have trouble getting a visa if he were given a jail sentence.
The court heard that Beckley - who had a clean licence - was not tired, had not been drinking or taking drugs, had not been speeding and had not ignored any warning signs.
“He thought it was safe to overtake when he did,” the lawyer added.
Mr Love said the Stewart family had suffered “a devastating loss” but remorseful Beckley had also suffered.
He had lost his job, his confidence, and had been seeking psychological help.