Justice at last for Yorkshire families as death drivers will face life sentences

Paul Long with Lorraine Allaway who lost her husband after he was killed in a drunk driving accident.
Paul Long with Lorraine Allaway who lost her husband after he was killed in a drunk driving accident.
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Grieving families, determined that nobody else should have to endure the pain they have, fought tirelessly to change the law around the sentencing of death drivers.

Related article: ‘If you drive and destroy lives, you will feel the full force of the law’

Our investigations unit is helping to change the law on driving sentences.

Our investigations unit is helping to change the law on driving sentences.

There’s the mother of Otley teenager, Jamie Still, knocked down by a drink driver on New Year’s Eve in 2010.

The father of James Gilbey, killed as he crossed the road in Leeds by racing drivers who fled the scene as he lay dying.

And the wife of Bob Allaway, a biker killed near Skipton by a drink driver who was on the wrong side of the road.

As news broke that their tireless battle has resulted in a change in the law, they have spoken of their joy - and hope - that this can bring about justice for others.

“It’s brilliant news, it’s fantastic,” said a tearful Karen Strong, Jamie Still’s mother.

“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, later found to be over the limit.

Driver Max McRae, then 21 and of Arthington, 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 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 with the support of former Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland, 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.”

Lorraine Allaway, from Long Preston, lost her husband Bob in October 2015. The 46-year-old, a father of five, had been killed by a drink driver travelling on the wrong side of the road. Sentenced to 56 months for causing death by careless driving while under the influence, his killer will serve two-and-a-half years.

“That’s no sense at all,” she said.

“This, finally, is some justice. I just hope, and pray, that the judges will be instructed to give the maximum sentence.”

Mrs Allaway’s campaign resulted in a 100,000-strong petition to Parliament.

“I fought long and hard for a law change,” she said. “So to hear the news, it really is fantastic. Justice is finally being done, for those left behind, and they are the ones suffering.”

Sheffield widow Karen Codling’s husband Eric was killed by drink driver in November 2013, after being hit while out on a bike ride. The father-of-two’s killer went on to serve just two years in jail.

“It is really good news,” she said. “Obviously I wish that it was the case when it happened to Eric but hopefully it will make things better for people who are experiencing what we have gone through.”

Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, said: “This is a major victory for the families of victims and charities, including Brake, who have tirelessly campaigned for punishments which better fit road crimes that kill and seriously injure people.”

Commenting on the investigation by Johnston Press and The Yorkshire Post into the sentences imposed, he said this and similar campaigns “undoubtedly” led to this long-awaited change.

He added: “After years and years of hard work from families who have been bereaved by road crashes, the Government has at last woken up and listened to their concerns.”