Leicester 'cannabis mum' guilty of killing daughter in crash

Anastasia James (right holding a folder) Anastasia James (right) had denied two charges of causing death by careless driving when unfit through drugs

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A mother who smoked cannabis before killing her daughter and her son's girlfriend in a car crash has been found guilty of causing their deaths.

Anastasia James, 37, smoked the drug before the crash on the M1 in Leicestershire in January 2014.

Her daughter, Destiny James-Keeling, 14, and Megan Marchant, 18, died when the car left the road at 70mph and hit a tree, Leicester Crown Court heard.

James, from Braunstone, had denied causing death by careless driving.

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She was convicted by a jury of two counts of causing death by careless driving when unfit through drugs and is due to be sentenced next month.

The court heard she had been at a child's birthday party in Islington, north London, before she took the "unforgivable" decision to smoke cannabis - which she did either before setting off or during the journey back to Leicester.

Megan Marchant (left) and Destiny James-Keeling (right) Megan Marchant (left) and Destiny James-Keeling (right) died in the crash

Prosecutor Michael Evans QC said James's Vauxhall Astra convertible veered into the central reservation near Shawell, then travelled across three lanes of the M1 before plunging down a verge, becoming airborne and hitting a tree at 50mph.

Destiny and Megan died within minutes of the crash. James's son Wade survived.

Forensic scientist David Berry told the jury traces of cannabis found in James's blood would have probably "impaired" the motorist. He said it was "impossible" she had smoked the drug passively.

James, of Thornton Close, said she had switched from using cannabis to a legal high because of her job as a private investigator.

James - who had stitches for a head wound after the crash - denied smoking anything on the day of the collision and blamed her car.

'Shocking effects'

"I just remember going straight and then this feeling of pulling," she told jurors.

"That's the point where I was really holding on tight to the wheel - it was just like a wobbly sensation. I couldn't actually stop it from pulling to the right."

The court heard James, who was convicted of possessing cannabis in 2000, had previously been involved in drug education and has a degree in youth and community development.

Det Sgt Mark Partridge, from the East Midlands Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: "This case shows the shocking effects of driving whilst under the influence of drugs.

"The deaths and now the subsequent conviction has devastated the families of all those involved."

Janine Smith, chief crown prosecutor for CPS East Midlands, added: "Anastasia James clearly would not have wanted this to happen, but there can be no escaping the fact that her actions caused the deaths of Destiny and Megan.

"She knew that she would be driving and yet she chose to use cannabis, which could, and did, impair her driving. As a result of her choices and actions, two young people lost their lives."

James, who was granted bail, was warned by Recorder Paul Mann QC she faces a jail term.

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