Driver who killed friend in A12 crash 'tragedy' given community order

Charlotte Oakes

Charlotte Oakes died in the crash on the A12 at Frostenden - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

A 24-year-old Suffolk woman whose car was involved in a head-on crash on the A12 after it veered on to the wrong side of the road, killing her best friend, has been given a community order.

Charlotte Oakes, 22, from Westleton, who was a front seat passenger in her friend Chelcie Lavery’s Peugeot, suffered “catastrophic” injuries in the collision in October 2018 and died at the scene, Ipswich Crown Court heard. 

Following the crash on the A12 at Frostenden, near the junction with Gypsy Lane, the Peugeot ended up in a field 10m away from the road. 

Lavery, of High Street, Leiston, denied causing Miss Oakes’ death by careless driving but was convicted by a jury after a three-day trial.

Sentencing Lavery on Monday (July 5) to a 12-month community order and a six-month curfew between 7pm and 7am each day, Judge Emma Peters said the collision had been caused by a “tragic and momentary period of inattention”.

She said there was no particular explanation for how Lavery’s car came to veer across the carriageway but the most likely reason was that she was perhaps driving too quickly for the conditions of the road.

However, there was no evidence she was speeding and her driving inexperience could have also been a factor.

Judge Peters praised Miss Oakes’ family, who were in court for the sentencing hearing, for their dignity during the trial.

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She said she hoped the years would bring some solace and reduction in their pain.

“If there was any sentence the court pass today that would bring back Miss Oakes, I would gladly pass it,” said the judge.

Following the verdict in May, Miss Oakes' family said in a statement released by Suffolk police: "Charlotte was a much-loved member of the community in which she had lived and worked her entire life.

"She was generous, hard-working and always fun to be around.

"As a family, we miss her stories and her laughter. We feel her loss every day and in everything we do.”

Marc Brown, prosecuting, said that on the afternoon of the collision that Lavery had picked up her “good friend” Miss Oakes and they had visited McDonald’s in Lowestoft. 

They had been on their way to the Eels Foot Inn, travelling southbound along the A12, when for some reason the Peugeot travelled into the oncoming lane as it came out of a bend. It collided with an Isuzu D-max pick-up truck. 

Mr Brown said that a thorough investigation was carried out into the collision and no mechanical defect was found on the Peugeot.

There were also no environmental factors which could have caused the crash. 

He said there was no obvious reason for the collision and the investigator concluded that perhaps due to inexperience, the collision had been caused by a loss of control as the Peugeot went round a bend, or inappropriate speed. 

Lavery, who was 22 at the time of the crash, suffered extensive injuries and later told police she had no recollection of the crash. 

She said she had been driving for a couple of years and had owned the Peugeot for three or four months. 

She said the last thing she recalled before the collision was the car pulling to the left and trying to correct it. She thought she had been travelling at between 40-50mph. 

Nick Bonehill, for Lavery, said his client had no previous convictions.

He described what happened in a October 2018 as an ”absolute and total tragedy.”

He said she had struggled during the interim period before the case came to court and had suffered mental health difficulties as a result of the incident.

He said she had been injured in the collision and had been receiving ongoing treatment.