Leeds dad: Four years in jail for taking my son’s life is a disgrace

Major Richard Gilbey.
Major Richard Gilbey.
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As a YEP investigation reveals the number of killer drivers given ‘lenient’ jail terms, a Leeds father tells of being given a life sentence by his son’s death.

It’s almost as though, as an Army Major, Richard Gilbey is somehow expected to hurt less. To stay stoic, stand strong, and shoulder the ache that grief has left.

James Gilbey.

James Gilbey.

He sobs when he speaks of what happened to James. He has lost his only son, and nothing can ease that pain.

Yet, as months pass and James’ killers come closer to being free, he still feels the burden of protecting others weighing ever heavier on his mind.

“I can’t do anything for my boy any more, other than this,” he said. “I need to fight.

“There isn’t a day goes by that someone isn’t killed by dangerous driving in this country. And people are walking away.

“They gave James a death sentence. They gave myself, my wife, my daughter, a life sentence. Yet those who killed him were given four years. That is a kick in the teeth.

“I’m not letting this go. I’m not going away. I will do what it takes to change things. This has got to stop now.”

James Gilbey, from Bramley in Leeds, was 25 when he died in July last year.

A bright, outgoing, sociable young man, he had just been promoted at work and had been out celebrating with friends on the night he was knocked down and killed.

He had been walking home, crossing the Stanningley by-pass, when he was hit, struck with such impact that his body flew 70 metres before crashing to the ground. He was killed instantly.

The two men responsible, who had been racing at speeds of 79mph in the 40 zone, fled the scene, one of them pausing only in an attempt to retrieve his number plate.

Majid Malik, of Silverhill Avenue in Bradford, and Kaiz Mahmood of Hinchliff Street, Bradford, both 28, handed themselves in days later after a massive police search.

They had disposed of their cars, burnt their clothes and been in hiding for two days.

They were each jailed for eight years, and will serve four.

“We had to sit in the court while their families were shouting and jumping for joy at the news, with big smiles on their faces,” said Major Gilbey. “We had to sit and endure that.

“Four years for those who callously took away James’ life. That is not justice, it’s a disgrace. It undermines the value of James’ life. It undermines the loss to our family.

“Just what would they have had to do, to be more callous, to get a longer sentence?”

Major Gilbey says Malik and Mahmood made decisions that night; to race, to leave James lying on the road. To dispose of the car, to burn their clothes, to hide.

“They were all calculated decisions,” he said. “Why was this not manslaughter?

“If I fired a gun down the street and hit someone, I wouldn’t be done for firing a gun - I’d be done for manslaughter. Why is this any different?

“A car is a piece of metal. The way they chose to use it made it a weapon. That weapon killed my son.”

James had worked at British Gas as a call centre operative and had just been promoted to become a trainer.

“James was a lovely lad,” said Major Gilbey. “Happy, jolly, he phoned his mum every night. He would have done anything to help anyone.

“As long as those around him were happy, he was happy. He just liked to enjoy life. But now, that has been taken from him.

“We don’t have a life any more. My daughter, Victoria, has just had a baby, a 15-week-old boy. He will never know James, and James will never know him. Their actions have brought this about.

“Judges have got this get-out clause - they say ‘no sentence will ever be enough to ease the pain of those left behind’. That’s true. But don’t kick us even more.

“These sentences really hurt. We will never get the opportunity to see our boy again, nothing can make us feel worse than that. But this, this is almost dismissing his life.

“Malik and Mahmood showed no remorse. They callously mowed him down. They left him there to die.

“They will walk away after nothing more than a short interlude in their lives. Yet they have destroyed ours.

“We are grateful for the Government’s ‘concerns’, but they mean nothing. Until the Government puts these concerns into action and changes the law, families like ours, and people like James, are continuing to lose their lives and the people responsible are virtually walking away.”