Life sentence plan could bring justice for victims of Yorkshire’s killer drivers

Karen Strong with daughter Rebecca. Her son Jamie Still was killed by a drunk driver.
Karen Strong with daughter Rebecca. Her son Jamie Still was killed by a drunk driver.
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A West Yorkshire mother whose son was killed by a drink driver is hopeful that Government plans to introduce tougher punishments for dangerous motorists will help bereaved families get “some small measure of justice”.

Drivers who cause death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone are among those who could be handed tougher punishments, under proposals outlined this weekend.

Collect picture of Rebecca and Jamie Still.

Collect picture of Rebecca and Jamie Still.

Offenders convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also be given life sentences under the Government plans.

Ministers hope the proposed move will see an increase in the punishments faced by those responsible for the most serious road offences.

Karen Strong’s son Jamie Still was killed by a drink driver in Otley at the age of 16. His killer spent two years in prison.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “Judges already have the option to sentence for 14 years - and they haven’t.

It can’t make any difference to me or my daughter any more, all it can do is make a change for other families.

Karen Strong

“Are they just paying lip service or is something really going to change?

“There have been promises, time and again. We get our hopes up, only to be let down. I really hope this is going to make a change.

“It can’t make any difference to me or my daughter any more, all it can do is make a change for other families. This is hopeful. We really want for this to be taken seriously.

“We want to get somewhere. Nobody should have to go through what we have done.”

She added: “We are not ever going to stop drink drivers or speeding drivers, there are always going to be reckless people out there.

“But we want to try and save some other families from going through the destruction that we have done.

“To try and get some value for their loved ones, so that they feel some small measure of justice for the person they have lost.”

The announcement follows an investigation by The Yorkshire Post which revealed no-one has ever received the maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.

Under the current regime they can attract a maximum sentence of 14 years - but the average custodial sentence for causing death by careless or dangerous driving was 45.8 months, or just under four years, in 2015.

Unveiling the proposals, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses.

“While impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime.

“My message is clear - if you drive dangerously and kill on our roads, you could face a life sentence.”

The MoJ consultation will run until February. Gary Rae, campaigns director for Yorkshire-based Brake, says: “This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims’ families, calling for change. For too long, the justice system has treated them as second class citizens.

“We do remain concerned that the charge of ‘careless’ driving could remain.

“Some of the strongest feedback we have received from the families we work with, is that there is nothing careless about taking someone else’s life.”

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