United Kingdom

Driver, 22, celebrates with champagne after being cleared over her part in M1 crash

Christalla Amphlett (pictured), 22, was yesterday cleared of causing the death by dangerous driving, after her friend was killed in a crash in 2017

A driver whose friend died in a horror crash on the M1 hard shoulder has celebrated being cleared of causing death by dangerous driving with a bottle of champagne. 

Christalla Amphlett, now 22, has been filmed celebrating with friends after a jury found her not guilty of causing the death of her friend Chloe Palmer, 19.

Ms Amphlett pumped her fists in the air while sitting in the back of a car as a friend said she was 'so proud' in a Snapchat video, reported The Sun.

In the early hours of November 25, 2017 Ms Amphlett stopped her Renault Twingo on the motorway, just south of Junction 6 at Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire, after a 17-minute-long argument with Ms Palmer broke out.

The car, which had been stationary for a second time, was then hit by an Isuzu D-Max driven by Bradley Lane, who careered into the back of the vehicle. 

Ms Palmer, the rear off-side passenger, suffered a severe brain injury and died days later. Maisie O'Flynn, who was on the back seat nearside seat next to Chloe, received serious injuries, but survived the crash. 

Keziah Knight, who had been the front seat passenger, was out of the car and sitting on the metal safety barrier. 

Ms Amphlett herself was treated for a bleed on the brain, a broken jaw and broken neck.

Prosecutor Wayne Cleaver said it was likely Lane had fallen asleep at the wheel of his vehicle. He said he had earlier pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Amphlett, who was 19 at the time, pleaded not guilty causing the death by dangerous driving of Ms Palmer. Yesterday, she stood in the jury box with her hands crossed over her chest and cried as the jury found her not guilty.

Ms Amphlett has been filmed celebrating with friends after a jury found her not guilty of causing the death of her friend Chloe Palmer, 19. Pictured, champagne was sprayed over her by one friend

Opening the case, Mr Cleaver said she had parked close to the inside lane without any illumination or hazard lights flashing. 

In addition, he said she had opened her door and was sitting with her legs outside the car, prompting one motorists to sound his horn and others to swerve to avoid her car.

On the route he said Ms Amphlett and Ms O'Flynn started arguing about 'something as trifling as petrol money.' 

He said she had agreed to make a detour to St Albans to drop off Ms O'Flynn but was low on petrol. The passengers were drunk and were beginning to annoy the driver.

'Such was her irritation that she pulled over onto the hard shoulder of the M1 where she remained at a standstill for a few minutes.'

Chloe Palmer (pictured), 19, died of a severe brain injury after a crash on the M1, just south of Junction 6 at Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire, in November 2017

Ms Palmer (pictured), who lived with her family in Finchley, North London was removed from the rear of the Renault and initially taken to Watford General Hospital, before being transferred to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington

The journey resumed, but further along the motorway the court was told, the defendant again pulled over onto the hard shoulder and stopped the car for after the argument about petrol money had started up again. After 17 minutes the crash happened.

In the witness box, Ms Amphlett, from Edgware, told the jury she was a full time support worker for 16 to 19 year olds and at the time of the fatal crash had been driving a private ambulance at the weekends. She had been unable to work for a year because of the injuries she received.

She had gone for lunch at TGI Fridays in Wembley before Ms O'Flynn invited her and her friends to go Watford. After going to the Hide Out club in Watford town centre she agreed to drive Ms O'Flynn home to St Albans.

Asked by Richard Dawson, defending, what she could remember she said: 'I remember Maisie could not get home. I remember I had to drop her home.

'I just remember there was an argument. I just remember shouting. I had to stop. I did not feel it was safe to continue.'

Ms Amphlett, pictured above, stood in the jury box with her hands crossed over her chest and cried as the jury found her not guilty

She said she did not recall what the argument was about but she said she assumed it was about petrol money. 'I did not have enough petrol to do other drop offs. I assume I was stressed out about that,' she said.

When she found out about her friend's death she said she screamed.

Ms Palmer, who lived with her family in Finchley, North London was removed from the rear of the Renault and initially taken to Watford General Hospital, before being transferred to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington.

She had sustained a pulmonary contusion, a complex pelvic fracture, fracture to the left leg, and an acute brain injury. She underwent intensive surgical intervention, but the injures to her brain were so severe that she died on December 2017.

Mr Cleaver had earlier told the jury: 'These are unusual circumstances since, as you will have appreciated, at the time of the collision her car was not moving.

'Nevertheless, the prosecution case is that she was driving; that driving was dangerous; and it was a contributory cause of the collision,' he said.

He went on: 'In order for the prosecution to prove the case against her we need only prove that her dangerous driving was a cause of Chloe's death. It is not necessary to prove that her dangerous driving was the only cause of the collision, nor even the principal or substantial cause.'

He went on: 'Miss Amphlett had created dangerous conditions by deliberately stopping the car where she did. Those conditions became increasingly dangerous the longer the car remained there.'

He said hard shoulders of motorways were only to be used in circumstances where it was necessary and unavoidable.

'It is to be used only in the case of genuine emergencies. This was not such a case,' he said.

The jury was told by PC Seb Jackson, who investigated the crash, that Rule 270 of the Highway Code states drivers must not stop on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or when told to do so by police or traffic officers in uniform.

At the end of the case Judge Richard Foster thanked the seven women and five men on the jury saying: 'It was a very difficult and challenging case.'

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