Six month jail term after crash tragedy

A OLD people's home worker is starting a jail term today after admitting causing a crash which led to the death of an OAP. However, Maria Freire's six-month jail term has been branded too soft by 89-year-old Cyril Friend's daughter.

A OLD people's home worker is starting a jail term today after admitting causing a crash which led to the death of an OAP.

However, Maria Freire's six-month jail term has been branded too soft by 89-year-old Cyril Friend's daughter.

Ipswich Crown Court heard Freire fell asleep at the wheel of her car after working seven consecutive 12-hour night shifts at an old people's home and had smoked cannabis before offering to give a friend a lift home.

During the journey, 49-year-old Freire fell asleep at the wheel of her car and, despite her friend's warning shouts, her Volkswagen Polo ploughed head-on into a car coming in the opposite direction along Valley Road in Ipswich.


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As a result of the impact, Mr Friend – who was a front seat passenger in his daughter Veronica Todd's BMW and had not been wearing a seat belt – was thrown against the windscreen and suffered head injuries and broken ribs.

Mr Friend, from Great Finborough, died in hospital on March 9, two weeks after the accident, from bronchial pneumonia caused by complications arising out of his broken ribs.

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Hugh Vass, prosecuting, said Freire had admitted to police that she had smoked two cannabis cigarettes in the morning before the accident.

However, he added there was no scientific evidence before the court to say to what degree the cannabis would have affected her ability to drive.

Freire, of Reading Road, Ipswich, admitted causing Mr Friend's death by dangerous driving.

She was jailed for six months, was banned from driving for four years and ordered to take an extended driving test. Freire will serve half the six-month sentence.

Jailing her, Judge John Holt said he was satisfied that the accident had been caused by Freire's tiredness due to her overworking.

"I don't accept any suggestion that smoking cannabis played any part," he said.

"It is quite clear to me that shift patterns cause you to be exceptionally tired and your fault, and a grave fault it was, was not to realise that that put you at risk if you got into a car."

He judge said Freire had an excellent character and it had been sad that someone who had devoted her career to caring for old people should kill someone in such a violent and tragic way.

Judge Holt added he was satisfied that Freire had expressed genuine remorse in a letter she had written to Mr Friend's family.

But speaking after yesterday's, Mrs Todd, who lives in Sevenoaks in Kent, said she had not received any letter from Freire.

Mrs Todd, said she felt six months was "too lenient" and described her father as a "true gentleman".

"He was such a wonderful man and had a good quality of life," she said.

Before his retirement Mr Friend had worked at Took's Bakery in Ipswich and lived in the town's Wicklow Road. He had also attended Whitton Baptist Church.

During yesterday's hearing the court heard Freire had finished work at 8am on February 22 this year.

She had just finished seven consecutive 12-hour night shifts. Freire told police that she had needed money and had been working overtime.

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