An Isle of Wight man has been sentenced to 6 years in prison today (Friday) for causing the avoidable and tragic death of a 28-year-old Cowes woman, when he collided head on with her vehicle after picking up his mobile phone whilst driving.
Craig Eccleston-Todd, 26, of Clifford Street, Newport was sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court this morning after being found guilty by a jury of causing death by dangerous driving.
The victim of the fatal collision, Miss Rachel Titley, 28, from Cowes (pictured), died after Eccleston-Todd collided head-on with her vehicle on the A3054 at Bouldnor, near Yarmouth, on 11th October 2013.
Miss Titley was rushed to hospital with a serious head injury, but despite the best efforts of staff, she later died.
Three fire appliances from the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service, as well as Police and ambulance crews, were called to the scene near to Hill Place Lane shortly after 21:35. The road remained closed for around 10 hours while collision investigators from the mainland examined the scene for evidence.
This photograph, released by Hampshire Constabulary with the family’s permission, shows the devastating scenes that met emergency services.
In court today it was said that after spending the evening with friends at a pub, where he had drunk at least three to four pints of lager, Ecclestone-Todd (pictured right) started his journey home when he received a text message. He took the decision to pick up his mobile phone whilst driving and, either reading or replying to this text message, was so distracted that he failed to negotiate a left hand bend, crossing the central white line into the path of Miss Titley’s oncoming car.
PC Mark Furse from Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit said:
“Mr Eccleston-Todd had left work in Yarmouth and met with friends at a pub where he drank at least three to four pints of lager. He hadn’t long left the pub to return home when the collision occurred at around 21:30.
“We weren’t able to take breath or blood tests from him immediately and although blood taken several hours after the collision showed he was marginally under the limit, we maintain he would have been over the limit at the time of the collision and in summing up today, the judge agreed.
“The analysis of his phone records showed that he was texting on his phone around the time of the collision so it’s highly likely this would also have contributed to his dangerous driving and loss of control”.
PC Furse continued:
“Mr Eccleston-Todd will now spend six years behind bars, but Rachel’s family have lost her forever. I hope this will make people think twice before drinking any alcohol and getting behind the wheel, or using a phone once they’re on the road.
“The dangers of drink driving and driving whilst using a mobile phone are obvious. Those who continue to do so risk spending a substantial time in prison. This case highlights just how tragic the consequences of committing these offences can be.”
Following the sentence, Lindsay Pennell, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in Wessex said:
“Miss Titley was a 28-year-old, solicitor’s clerk, with a bright future ahead of her. She was also returning home having spent an enjoyable evening with friends and was driving responsibly. She had arranged to contact her friends when she got home to confirm that she had arrived safely. Her friends’ sadly never heard from her after they parted company.
“After hearing both the prosecution and the defence case, the jury at Portsmouth Crown Court was satisfied that Mr Ecclestone-Todd was using his mobile phone to read or send a text message at the time of the collision and that in doing so his driving fell far below what was expected of a competent and careful driver and was dangerous.
“Miss Titley’s death in these circumstances reiterates the danger of using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving. Our thoughts are with Miss Titley’s family.”
Craig Eccleston-Todd has been banned from driving for a total of 8 years, after which he must take an extended test to regain his licence.