28 October, 2011
This judgment deals with death by driving – whether it is appropriate to have regard to a guideline from the Sentencing Council for England and Wales and what is in that guideline.
In this case, three appeal judges found that a sentence of 300 hours community service for a man who pled guilty to death by dangerous driving was too lenient. Instead they gave him a prison sentence of 12 months.
The offender was a Spaniard who came to Scotland to work for a wind farm company. He had been in the country for about three weeks before the accident.
He had been asked to take the company’s Mitsubishi pick-up truck to collect a replacement part in the town of Girvan. While driving along the A714, he realised he had forgotten the faulty part and turned around in a lay-by, mistakenly pulling back on to the right-hand side of the single carriageway - as he would when driving in Spain. He remained on the wrong side of the road for between a quarter and a half mile before crashing head on into a Citroen car on a tight bend.
An 80-year-old grandmother in the Citroen died on the way to the hospital, while the four other people in the car suffered injuries including fractured bones, cuts and bruises.
At the time of the court hearing, Mr. Noche had stopped driving and was off work on sick leave with depression. He was a first-time offender who had held a licence for 20 years.
The sentencing judge decided that the only aggravating factor in the case was that the offender had driven on the wrong side of the road. She said it was exceptional circumstances and instead of a prison sentence, she ordered him to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work in the community.
The sentence was appealed by the prosecutor who argued that it was too lenient. The appeal judges agreed and changed the sentence to 12 months in prison.
The judges ruled that it was appropriate to take into account the sentencing guidelines on death by dangerous driving in England and Wales. In their judgment, they decided that the sentencing judge hadn’t taken account of the injuries suffered by the people in the Citroen as an aggravating factor. They noted that the offender’s bad driving had not been momentary but had lasted for at least a quarter of a mile. They ruled that this fell into overlapping categories of dangerous and careless driving. In terms of the guidelines for England and Wales, this would mean that the sentence range should be between 36 weeks and five years in prison. They took 18 months imprisonment as a starting point and reduced it to 12 months because of the offender’s early guilty plea and the fact that he had already carried out 150 hours of unpaid work for the community.