Killer drivers face life behind bars in a victory for bereaved families after a YEP investigation highlighted the injustice of sentencing for those who cause death on the roads.
Life sentences will be introduced for those who cause death by dangerous driving and careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs after the voices of campaigners and devastated families were heard.
The investigation by Johnston Press papers including the YEP revealed the scandal of lenient sentences as it emerged drivers who kill have been sentenced to an average of just five years in prison. The investigation also showed not a single person has been handed the maximum 14-year sentence for death by dangerous driving since Parliament lengthened the sentence from 10 years in 2004.
As well as submitting its coverage as part of a Government consultation into driving offences and penalties, the YEP gave families a voice as they spoke of their fight to change the law.
“It’s brilliant news, it’s fantastic,” said a tearful Karen Strong, mother of Otley teenager Jamie Still who was knocked down by a drink driver on New Year’s Eve in 2010. “This is something we have campaigned for so long for.
“It won’t make a difference to us, it’s too late, but we’ve always fought so this doesn’t happen to anyone else. This, finally, is justice.”
Jamie was 16 when he was killed by a speeding driver. Driver Max McRae, then 21 and of Arthington, was jailed for four years for causing death by careless driving while unfit through drink. Let out on license, he served two.
This sentence, described by Ms Strong as a “slap in the face”, prompted her and daughter Rebecca’s campaign which has lasted six years and resulted in a 13,000-strong petition which was presented to Parliament.
“It’s not been easy, it’s been one struggle after another,” she said. “Every time we started to get somewhere it was ripped out from under us. But we knew we could never give up.
“It felt like such an insult that he would spend two years in prison for killing Jamie. And that’s what he did - he killed my son.
“At least now, if it happens to someone else, they can feel some measure of justice has been done.”