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Eight-year jail sentence for hit-and-run driver under influence of alcohol and cannabis when she killed cyclist

Jessica Berry fled the fatal collision but was arrested shortly after thanks to members of the public spotting her badly damaged vehicle before passing the collision scene nearby and alerting the police

A driver under the influence of alcohol and cannabis when she hit and killed a cyclist, before fleeing the scene of the fatal collision, has been jailed for eight years and eight months. Jessica Berry was also given a five-year driving ban, which is to commence on her release from prison, after she admitted to causing the death of 40-year-old James Raeburn last autumn.

Dorset Police shared the news from the sentencing at Bournemouth Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday 9 July), Sergeant Mike Burt calling Berry's actions "extremely reckless" and thanking the two members of the public whose "quick-thinking actions and vital assistance" aided the investigation.

Berry hit Mr Raeburn on the B3078 Julians Road on the evening of Wednesday 4 October 2023, the police force receiving a report of the collision at 10.11pm. When emergency services arrived at the scene the cyclist was pronounced dead and the hunt for the motorist involved began.

Two members of the public noticed Berry's badly damaged Vauxhall Corsa parked on Jubilee Road in Corfe Mullen and subsequently alerted the police to its location after later coming across the scene of the collision and thinking that the two may be connected. One man remained at the scene, while the other returned to where they had seen the car with the damaged windscreen and helped officers locate it.

Berry was arrested and while in custody provided a breath test found to contain 72 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, over the legal limit of 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. A blood sample also showed the presence of the psychoactive constituent of cannabis at a rate of seven micrograms per litre of blood, a figure also in excess of the legal limit, which is two micrograms per litre of blood.

The 26-year-old pleaded guilty to offences of failing to stop after a road traffic collision, driving a vehicle in a condition likely to cause danger of injury, causing death by driving without due care or consideration while over the prescribed limit for alcohol, and causing death by driving without due care or consideration while over the specified drug drive limit for cannabis.

At Bournemouth Crown Court she was this week sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison, while she will also be subject to a five-year driving ban on her release from prison.

"We sadly see all too often the shocking consequences of motorists driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol"

Sergeant Burt of Dorset Police's Roads Policing Team said the "reckless actions" of Berry had "devastating consequences".

"By driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and drugs, she posed a significant risk to herself and other road users, which was tragically realised when she was involved in the collision with Mr Raeburn," he commented.

"We sadly see all too often the shocking consequences of motorists driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Nothing will ever make up for his family's loss and I can only hope this case sends a message to those considering driving whilst intoxicated to stop and think about the awful consequences these actions can cause.

"At the sentencing hearing, the judge commended the two members of the public who assisted in locating Berry's vehicle. I would like to take the opportunity to personally thank them as well for their quick-thinking actions and the vital assistance they gave to this investigation."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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7 comments

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OldRidgeback | 1 day ago
5 likes

Well at least the driver is getting some jail time. A life driving ban would be appropriate. My condolences to the family of the victim.

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EK Spinner | 2 days ago
18 likes

Why the F___ does she only get a 5 year ban, the courts would never return a shotgun licence to anyone who had used a gun to kill

Avatar
the little onion replied to EK Spinner | 2 days ago
10 likes

Hopefully the new government can finish the review of road safety and punishment that we were promised in 2014

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to EK Spinner | 2 days ago
13 likes

EK Spinner wrote:

Why the F___ does she only get a 5 year ban, the courts would never return a shotgun licence to anyone who had used a gun to kill

This is why I strongly believe that drivers who cause the death of someone should never hold a driving license again. They've proved beyond any doubt that they are not a safe driver.

Avatar
mctrials23 replied to hawkinspeter | 2 days ago
13 likes

Yep. If people saw their ability to drive as something that wasn't almost a god given right it would make a massive difference to road safety. Probably far more than shitty cycle lanes etc. Start banning people for a long time when they have shown they are not just breaking rules but putting lives in danger. 

Avatar
Surreyrider replied to mctrials23 | 2 days ago
4 likes

All well and good but in many cases the ban will be ignored and they'll continue to drive and probably won't be caught.

Avatar
brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 2 days ago
1 like

hawkinspeter wrote:

EK Spinner wrote:

Why the F___ does she only get a 5 year ban, the courts would never return a shotgun licence to anyone who had used a gun to kill

This is why I strongly believe that drivers who cause the death of someone should never hold a driving license again. They've proved beyond any doubt that they are not a safe driver.

After all, if it saves one life...

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