A TEENAGER whose careless driving caused the deaths of three school friends has avoided prison and been given 300 hours community service.
Robbie Gemmell, 17, walked out of Edinburgh Sheriff Court today after Sheriff Gordon Liddle accepted that he could deal with the schoolboy by imposing a non custodial sentence.
In November 2013 Gemmell told police officers that he was a front seat passenger in a Peugeot 206 that crashed on a single track road in near Tyninghame, East Lothian, in November 2013.
The horrific crash claimed the lives of Dunbar Grammar School pupils Jenna Barbour,18, David Armstrong,15, and 16-year-old Joshua Stewart.
Accident investigators estimated the Peugeot was travelling at a minimum of 50 to 54 miles per hour in the moments before the collision.
The court heard David Armstrong had been thrown from the car upon impact and that emergency service workers found his lifeless body 15 metres from the vehicle.
The court heard how Gemmell originally told officers that Jenna - who was due to go travelling in New Zealand in January 2014 - had been driving at the time of the fatal collision. But he later confessed to driving the car himself.
On Friday, defence QC John Scott told the court that his client suffered from depression and was haunted by the memory of seeing his best friends die in front of his eyes.
Sheriff Liddle said he was persuaded not to jail Gemmell and ordered him to perform the community service within 12 months. He also banned him from driving for four years and ordered him to be supervised by the authorities for two years.
Passing sentence, Sheriff Liddle said that the law meant that if he were to be sent to jail, he could be released in a few months.
He added:”No one could fail to be moved by the tragic loss of these young promising lives in such avoidable circumstances.
“I extend my personal sympathy to those bereaved. I hope and pray that in time there may be some peace and healing for them and for the wider community.”
The sad story emerged last month after Gemmell, of Wilson Place, Dunbar, pleaded guilty before Sheriff Liddle to driving causing the deaths of David, Jenna, and Joshua on November 25, 2013, by driving a car without due care and attention at Limetree Walk, near Tyninghame, East Lothian.
Prosecution lawyer Graeme Jessop told the court that the car involved in the collision belonged to Jenna Barbour. At some point in the evening, Gemmell took over driving from Miss Barbour.
The court heard that at 8.15pm, Gemmell made a 999 call to ambulance control.
Mr Jessop said: “A transcript of the emergency call highlights the distressed state of the accused as he did everything he was asked to do by the emergency call handler in a futile attempt to provide assistance to the injured passengers.”
Mr Scott told the court that Gemmell accepted that he shouldn’t have been driving but had been encouraged to do so on the night in question.
Mr Scott said Gemmell suffered significant mental health problems and had developed PTSD.
He added: “He has been profoundly affected by what happened on that evening.
“Not only did he witness the death of three young people, he witnessed the deaths of his best friends.
“It is not something that will ever go away. He will have to live with this for ever”
Mr Scott also said that the lack of a criminal record and the circumstances of the offence meant that the Sheriff could impose an alternative sentence to custody.
Sheriff Liddle said he was persuaded not to jail Gemmell.
He added: “You were injured in the collision. Following the collision, you were concussed and disorientated. You contacted the emergency services to get assistance. It is clear from the recording of that phone call that you did everything you possibly could to render assistance to your friends who were injured in the collision.
“Tragically your efforts were in vain and all three of your friends died.
“This is a very serious matter. I cannot begin to measure the loss of a life and make no attempt to do so.
“However, it is important for the public to understand that this is not a case involving the much more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving.
“This offence relates to an accident caused by lack of care and attention but one with fatal consequences for not one but three young people.
“It would not be possible to overstate the consequences of your choice of actions. Parents and extended family members of the three victims, are having to cope with the pain and distress of their loss.
“The devastation to the family members and the wider Dunbar community is palpable in this crowded court house.
“No sentence I could pass will give comfort to those families in mourning for their children and siblings.”