Leeds mum: ‘He got two years...we got a life sentence’

Jamie Still.
Jamie Still.
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In the third part of a YEP special investigation into ‘lenient’ sentences for killer drivers, Ruby Kitchen spoke to the family of Otley boy Jamie Still who was killed by a drink driver at 16.

A gentle giant with a lopsided smile, Jamie Still, at 16, had everything ahead of him.

Adored by his little sister, he doted on her, even as a teen, and the pictures on his mum’s walls show him grinning shyly at the camera with his arms around 12-year-old Rebecca.

They were taken six years ago, before Jamie was killed. On New Year’s Eve, 2010, he was mown down by a speeding drink driver in his home town of Otley in Leeds.

For his mum, Karen Strong and sister Rebecca, the pain of losing Jamie will never go away. But what makes it worse, they say, was the sentence his killer was given.

“What he did, in my eyes, was manslaughter,” said Miss Strong. “But, because a car was involved, it wasn’t. It was classed as careless driving.

“We’ve got a life sentence. He spent two years in prison. For a judge to tell us our child is worth no more than that, was a slap in the face.”

Jamie was killed as he walked to a Chinese takeaway with friends, struck by speeding drink-driver driver Max McRae who lost control of his car, mounting the pavement and ploughing into Jamie.

It took firefighters, police, and paramedics 45 minutes to free him from the wreckage of the crash.

Miss Strong, rushed to hospital under police escort, waited anxiously for news as doctors battled to save him.

“After what felt like hours, a nurse came and asked if I could come talk to him,” she said, failing to hold back the tears as she recounts what happened that night.

“Jamie was deteriorating and they needed him to fight for his life.

“The nurse was pumping his heart; I remember someone offered to take over but she wouldn’t. She said she wanted to fight for this young man.

“I was holding his hand. I looked up and the nurse was crying. He was gone. Jamie was gone.”

It later emerged driver McRae, 21, of Warren Lane in Arthington, had tested twice the drink drive limit.

In the minutes before the crash, he had been practicing handbrake turns in a nearby garden centre.

“The day he was charged with killing Jamie, he changed his Facebook profile picture to one of him having a pint and sticking his fingers up,” said Miss Strong.

“He got two years off his sentence for showing remorse. Seems a funny kind of remorse to me.”

In September 2001, McRae was jailed for four years for causing death by careless driving while unfit through drink and banned from driving for five years. Let out on licence, he served two.

“We’ve got a life sentence. He spent two years in prison,” said Miss Still. “They don’t treat this like any other crime. With a car involved, it’s an ‘accident’.

“This wasn’t an accident. He knew what he was risking when he got behind the wheel.”