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110mph driver is jailed for killing teenager in crash

A DRIVER who reached 110mph before a crash that killed a teenage girl has been jailed for nine years.

A court heard fisherman James Neill, 35, ignored pleas to slow down as his passengers were flung from side to side while his Honda Civic sped down the A83 towards Tarbet, Argyll.

Neill lost control going into a right-hand bend and the car spun off the road and smashed into a large rock before bouncing back onto the carriageway.

Natasha Clark, 17, and her friend Sandra Harvey were trapped in the rear of the vehicle while front-seat passenger Sean McGregor was also hurt.

Ms Clark's injuries were so severe she was airlifted to Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

She was pronounced dead some 24 hours later after her family faced the agonising decision to halt medical treatment.

In the aftermath of the accident on August 20, 2012, Neill insisted he was not speeding.

But in court he admitted causing the death of Ms Clark by driving dangerously and at excessive speed near Erines, Tarbert.

When he appeared for sentencing at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday judge Lord Stewart told him his speed had been "grossly excessive".

The judge said: "The danger to passengers of your vehicle and other road users was obvious but you continued in complete disregard of pleas to slow down."

Neill, of Easfield, Tarbert, was also banned from driving for 15 years and ordered to take an extended test before getting behind the wheel again.

Ms Clark's family, who had come to court to see Neill sent to prison, left without comment.

Solicitor advocate Simon Whyte, defending, said since the fatal incident Neill had been treated for anxiety and had been unable to work. Living in a small community he felt unable to leave his house.

Lord Stewart said he accepted Neill's remorse was genuine.

Ms Clark of Oakhill, Tarbert, was a former pupil of Aboyne Academy and worked as a shop assistant in Lochgilpead's Co-op store.

On the evening on August 20, 2012, she visited hairdresser Ms Harvey who was going to Stronachullin to do another friend's hair. Ms Harvey's boyfriend Sean McGregor was a friend of Neill and he agreed to drive them to Stronachullin.

Advocate depute Tim Niven-Smith, prosecuting, said at the start of the return journey Neill revved the Civic's engine, accelerated sharply and spun the wheels of the car.

Throughout the course of the journey he was driving too fast, the court heard.

"Sandra Harvey looked at the speedometer and saw that it was reading 110mph," said Mr Niven-Smith. "Sandra Harvey saw that Natasha Clark looked frightened.

"Sandra Harvey held Natasha Clark's hand and closed her eyes."

Mr Niven-Smith said Mr McGregor told his friend to slow down and stop "pushing it."

Just before Erines Cottage he also saw the speedo was reading 110mph and van driver Coll McFarlane, travelling in the opposite direction, estimated the Honda Civic speed as more than 100mph.

The court heard Neill was still driving well in excess of the 60mph speed limit when he braked to go into a turn and the car began to spin out of control. Crash experts said at the time of the impact the Civic was still travelling at more than 70mph.

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