'˜Small measure of justice' as some killer drivers face life

A West Yorkshire mother, whose son was killed by a drink driver, hopes the introduction of tougher punishments for dangerous motorists will help bereaved families get 'some small measure of justice'.

Karen Strong and her daughter Rebecca, sister of Jamie, who was killed by a drink driver aged 16.

Drivers who cause death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone are among those who could be handed tougher punishments under new Government plans.

Offenders convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also be given life sentences.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Ministers hope the proposed move will see an increase in the punishments faced by those responsible for the most serious road offences.

Karen Strong’s son Jamie Still was killed by a drink driver in Otley, Leeds, at the age of 16.

His killer spent two years in prison.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “Judges already have the option to sentence for 14 years – and they haven’t.

“Are they just paying lip service or is something really going to change?

“There have been promises, time and again. We get our hopes up, only to be let down. I really hope this is going to make a change.

“It can’t make any difference to me or my daughter any more, all it can do is make a change for other families. This is hopeful. We really want for this to be taken seriously.

“We want to get somewhere. Nobody should have to go through what we have done.”

She added: “We are not ever going to stop drink drivers or speeding drivers; there are always going to be reckless people out there.

“But we want to try and save some other families from going through the destruction that we have done.

“To try and get some value for their loved ones, so that they feel some small measure of justice for the person they have lost.”

The Government announcement follows a special investigation by The Yorkshire Post which revealed no one has ever received the maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.

Under the current regime they can attract a maximum sentence of 14 years, but the average custodial sentence for causing death by careless or dangerous driving was 45.8 months, or just under four years, in 2015.

Unveiling the proposals, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses.

“While it is impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime. If you drive dangerously and kill, you could face a life sentence.”

The Ministry of Justice consultation will run until February.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Yorkshire-based road safety charity Brake, added: “This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims’ families, calling for change. For too long, the justice system has treated them as second class citizens.

“We do remain concerned that the charge of ‘careless’ driving could remain. Some of the strongest feedback we have received from the families we work with, is that there is nothing careless about taking someone else’s life.”