Man, 20, killed friend in crash after losing control of car and hitting tree

A young driver who killed a college friend when he smashed his car into a tree has been found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.

James Norton, 20, lost control of his red Vauxhall Corsa as he tried to overtake a slower-moving van.

Norton did not slow down or manoeuvre early enough and spun across the hard shoulder, hit the kerb and left the carriageway of the A414 near Hemel Hempstead.

The car wrapped itself around the tree, which penetrated its roof.

Passenger Joshua Porter, 18, from Bushey, was confirmed dead at the scene by paramedics.

Joshua, like James Norton, was studying public services at West Herts College in Watford.

His mum Deborah said: "He had his head screwed on and he knew what he wanted and where he was going.

"He was an outgoing, lively and bubbly person who had his whole life ahead of him."

James Norton, of Hemel Hempstead, denied causing death by dangerous driving, but was convicted by a jury at St Albans Crown Court.

The jury had been told he had earlier admitted the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.

Prosecutor Peter Shaw said the case involved the "tragic, untimely death" of Joshua Porter on the eastbound A414, the old M10, at around a quarter two in the afternoon of August 25, 2017.

Mr Shaw said: "The road is a dual carriageway. Traffic was relatively light. The defendant was in the inside lane. The weather was good and visibility was good at the time.

"There was a straight section of road – giving a good view.

"The defendant was driving at speed and there was a slower-moving van directly ahead. Ordinarily a driver would be expected to notice and slow down or manoeuvre.

"Mr Norton failed to react to the presence of the van. He left it very late indeed.

"He either swerved or moved the Corsa into Lane 2 at the last moment and narrowly avoided a collision."

At the time, the Corsa was estimated at travelling between 79.3 and 84.6 miles per hour.

Mr Shaw went on: "He attempted to straighten up or move into lane 1 and he lost control of the car.

"It rotated back into lane 1, went across the hard shoulder, hit the kerb and left the carriageway. It hit the tree, which penetrated the roof of the car."

Joshua was confirmed dead at the scene by paramedics. James Norton left the car with blood on him and was treated in hospital.

The jury was played a dashcam video from the Corsa that James Norton was driving. It also recorded the music playing inside the car.

James Norton, who was in the Marine Cadets, gave a negative breath test. When questioned, he told the police he was fit and well.

He said there was good visibility on the road and that he was concentrating.

He told the police: "’I was driving, that’s all I remember. I don’t know why I changed lane late."

In the witness box he said Josh had stayed at his home overnight and they were driving to college with music playing through his (Norton’s) mobile phone.

He said: "I’d just like to say Josh was a really good friend who was always there for me."

Judge Michael Kay QC adjourned sentence until January 7 telling Norton a custody sentence was very likely.

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