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One-year sentence for woman in fatal Matilda's Corner crash

Published:Friday | December 11, 2015 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle

Justice David Fraser has sentenced 38-year-old Ann-Marie Williams to one year's imprisonment at hard labour, following her conviction last month for causing death by dangerous driving.

The judge said he took into account the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating factors, and had no choice but to send the Jamaica National Building Society employee to prison.

After the sentence was handed down, Williams wept uncontrollably in the Home Circuit Court.

Williams filed an appeal yesterday against her conviction and sentence and has been granted bail in the amount of $400,000 with surety.

A seven-member jury had convicted her of two counts of causing death by dangerous driving. She was sentenced to one year's imprisonment on each count, but the sentences are to run concurrently. She has been disqualified from holding a driver's licence for two years.

The victims were 60-year-old Esmerelda Evans, who was blind, and 51-year-old Johanna Scarlet. They were killed in January 2011, when Williams' car ploughed into a bus stop at which they were standing in Matilda's Corner, Liguanea, St Andrew. Three other visually impaired persons were also injured.

Lord Anthony Gifford, QC, in making the mitigating plea, said the case was not one which warranted a custodial sentence. He said it was not a case in which Williams was taking a risk or a deliberate attempt to overtake. He said it was not a case in which alcohol played any part. He disclosed that Williams had made compensation to the injured and relatives of the victims amounting to more than $8 million.

He said she had apologised for what happened and said "she lives the moment everyday and is horrified of what she was responsible for".

In her defence, Williams had said that while driving, she saw a red light and did not know what happened afterwards.

Gifford asked the judge to consider the character evidence that Williams was making a significant contribution to the society and the many social programmes she was involved in.

TRAGIC CASE

Fraser described the case as a very tragic one. He said the jury must have rejected her defence that she had a seizure before the accident and accepted the evidence of the police officer from the Reconstructive Unit that presence of mind was demonstrated when she swerved from a perimeter wall. The judge said even in the social-enquiry report, Williams continued to maintain that she did not know what happened on the day of the accident.

The judge said things would have been different if she had decided to enter a guilty plea.

Williams is contending in the grounds of appeal that Fraser ought to have accepted the no-case submission made at the end of the Crown's case. She contends that the judge erred in allowing the evidence of the reconstruction expert to be probative when there was no direct evidence of the accident.

She is asking the Court of Appeal to find that the sentence of one year is manifestly excessive, having regard to the manifold mitigating factors.

It will be argued on appeal that the judge erred in holding that Williams' failure to plead guilty was a determining factor in deciding that she should be sent to prison.

Williams is also being represented by attorneys-at-law Dr Garth Lyttle and RenÈe Malcolm.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com