An inexperienced driver who caused the death of a woman on her way to church with friends after he lost control of his car and ended up on the wrong side of a carriageway has today been jailed for two years.
Judge Martin Joy said the 30-year-old overtook another car on the A2 near the Pepper Hill junction in Northfleet and made a "violent and stupid manoeuvre" when leaving it too late to take a slip road.
Driver Paul Shadbolt has been jailed for two years
His Vauxhall Corsa shot across the carriageway and collided almost head on with a Honda Jazz.
Jeanette Shaw, 73, a backseat passenger in the other car, was killed. The driver and another passenger were seriously injured. Shadbolt's fiancee was flown to hospital with a broken leg.
"This was not momentary inattention. It was sheer stupidity..." - Judge Martin Joy
The judge said of Shadbolt's driving: "Anyone standing on the gantry would have said: 'My God, that is really stupid.'"
Shadbolt, of Fawkham Close, Fawkham, was banned from driving for two years.
Maidstone Crown Court heard he and his girlfriend Niamh Morrow were returning home on Sunday June 2 last year on the London-bound carriageway.
The driver of the other car, Christine Ryan, suffered 12 fractured ribs and a broken collarbone in the horror crash.
Front seat passenger Valerie Gauci had a shattered kneecap, a broken wrist, nine fractured ribs and a cracked sternum.
Jeanette Shaw, who was sitting behind them, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Pensioner Jean Shaw died in a crash on her way to church
"Christine Ryan said she was going on to the A2 at Northfleet," said prosecutor Tom Dunn. "She described the other car coming off the A2 and 'just flying at me'."
She added: "I thought it was a Range Rover because he was so high up. I shouted at Valerie and then at Jeanette and I knew she was gone."
Valier Gauci said: "I shouted Jesus! We are all Christians on our way to church. I heard someone saying to Chris: 'Are you alright? I heard someone say: 'There is no pulse."
Shadbolt had only passed his test two months earlier. He told the court he had moved in with Miss Morrow, who works as an HR manager at Sainsbury's, and needed a car to get to work.
The scene of the crash in Northfleet
Judge Joy said he had found "without any difficulty" that he did not accept Shadbolt's version of what happened.
"You decided very unwisely to minimise what happened in a false way," he told him.
"Nobody can turn the clock back one second. I have no doubt you were as deeply shocked as others would have been at what you had caused.
"The reality is you caused the death of one lady and very serious injuries to two other ladies. You also caused serious injury to Miss Morrow, your passenger.
"There were shocking injuries caused. In my judgement, this offence just fell into a category falling not far short of dangerous driving."
Judge Martin Joy sits at Maidstone Crown Court
Shadbolt had crossed the chevrons at speed, he said, when he suddenly decided it was not too late to take the slip road, making a "violent and stupid manoeuvre".
The judge continued: "You hit the kerb, mounted the verge and then this virtually head-on collision happened.
"This is a case where you have to be regarded as a person of high culpability. It is bad driving. You didn't pay regard to the safety of others. You put others at risk with tragic consequences.
"I have come to the conclusion a non-custodial sentence simply cannot be justified. This was not momentary inattention. It was sheer stupidity."