Young driver in custody for girl's death

A YOUNG driver who was behind the wheel without a driving licence caused the death of a 15-year-old schoolgirl while giving her a lift to do her paper round.

A YOUNG driver who was behind the wheel without a driving licence caused the death of a 15-year-old schoolgirl while giving her a lift to do her paper round.

Luke McNally, 20, who worked for McColls newsagents in Belton, allowed Emily Knipe to sit in the back of his van without a seatbelt but crashed when it left the road and struck a tree in icy conditions, a court heard on Friday.

Emily died at the James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston, shortly after the accident on the A143 at Fritton last December 7. McNally also received serious injuries, while a 14-year-old passenger, who was wearing a seatbelt, escaped unhurt.

Richard Paterson, prosecuting at Norwich Crown Court, said McNally, who was 19 at the time, had a driving licence but it was withdrawn after he was convicted of driving without insurance last November. But he had failed to tell his employers and carried on driving.

On the day of the crash, the road conditions were icy and a witness described seeing the van spinning 180 degrees before flipping upside down and striking a tree.

Mr Paterson said: “There is no evidence from any of the witnesses of bad driving.”

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He said Emily's death devastated her family and friends.

McNally, of Mariners Park Close, Hopton, admitted causing death by driving unlicensed.

Sentencing him to 24 weeks' custody and imposing an 18-month driving ban, Judge Alasdair Darroch said the charge was a new offence and the maximum sentence was two years.

He said Emily's death had left a “huge gap” in her family's lives, telling McNally: “You knew perfectly well you were not allowed to drive without being supervised and in a situation like this when there is ice on the road they may be able to help.”

He said McNally was in charge and had allowed the girl to be in the back of the van without restraint or seatbelt.

Guy Ayers, in mitigation, read out a letter to the court from McNally in which he expressed his deep regret and said: “Because of my stupidity a young girl is no longer alive. I feel I deserve to go to prison for what I have done.”

Mr Ayers said causing the death of Emily, also from Hopton, would be something that would be with him for the rest of his life. He said McNally himself was injured and had no memory of the accident.

After the case, Emily's mother Susan hit out at the leniency of the sentence, saying: “My child has lost her life.”

She said that rather than write a letter to the court, he should have sent a letter of apology to her. She said she was still struggling to cope with the loss of her daughter who attended Oriel Specialist Maths and Computing College and was very sporty.

She had played rugby, then switched her attention to football and played or the Bohemians in Gorleston.

Becoming a gym instructor or joining the army were among the career ambitions of the schoolgirl who was described as a popular girl who was full of joy and laughter.

No one from McColls could be contacted for a comment.

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