Judges quash conviction over death crash

A student teacher, jailed after being found guilty of causing a Rillington pensioner's death in a head-on car crash, has had her conviction quashed by top judges on appeal.

Idoya Leon, 23, of St Michael's Close, Stoke on Trent, was jailed for 18 months in March after being convicted of causing the death of Margaret Dickinson by dangerous driving.

On April 28, three Appeal Court judges quashed her conviction, ruling it was "unsafe", and freed Leon on bail. That fact can only be reported for the first time today after the judges ruled that she will not have to endure a retrial.

Instead, the court yesterday substituted a conviction for careless driving.

Lord Justice Hooper, sitting with Mr Justice Lloyd Jones and Judge Roberts QC, overturned Leon's jail term and imposed in its place a 12-month driving ban and six penalty points on her licence

It was the Crown's case at trial that Leon failed to turn at a bend in the A64 near Rillington, and ended up entirely on the wrong side of the road.

She was said to have driven straight on, crashing into 79-year-old Mrs Dickinson who was coming the other way. The Crown claimed both cars were travelling at 50mph.

Leon maintained at her York Crown Court trial that she had no memory of the accident on April 28 last year, and she could not explain how she ended up on the wrong side of the road. She had only had about 14 to 16 seconds warning of the bend.

Overturning Leon's conviction, Lord Justice Hooper agreed with Leon's legal team that there were serious flaws in Judge Ashurst's summing-up of the case to the jury.

Judge Ashurst's summing up of expert evidence put forward by the defence was "both unclear and defective," said the appeal judge, who added: "What, in our view, the jury needed was a clear exposition of the evidence of (the expert), which they did not receive."

Yesterday, despite prosecution demands that Leon should be re-tried, Lord Justice Hooper observed that Leon had already served four months behind bars – the equivalent of an eight-month sentence – and a retrial was "unjustified".

He said he would have liked to substitute a conviction for causing death by careless driving, but could not do so as that offence had not been introduced at the time of the crash.

Instead, Lord Justice Hooper substituted a conviction for careless driving, along with a 12-month driving ban and six penalty points. He declined to impose any financial penalty on Leon due the time she has spent behind bars.

Leon sat anxiously in the Appeal Court dock to hear the judges' ruling.