Deaths driver out too soon, says angry MP

Outrage has been voiced by a Labour MP that the Yorkshire drink-driver who killed three young women could serve less than five years behind bars and is being moved to an open prison.

Now the Government has re-affirmed its commitment to consider introducing tougher sentences for killer drivers.

Allan Jackson killed three friends – Angela Ovington, 28, Victoria Fisher, 27, and Susan Briggs, 30 – when he careered into them in Huddersfield in August 2000 while he was three times over the legal alcohol limit for driving.

Another friend, Louise Tinkler, narrowly escaped being hit by Jackson's car.

The women were returning home from a drink at the Slubbers' Arms on the outskirts of Huddersfield when the tragedy happened.

But despite already having two previous convictions for drink-driving and attempting to evade arrest on the night, Jackson, of Birkby, Huddersfield, was in effect only sentenced in December 2000 to up to eight years after pleading guilty to three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

At Bradford Crown Court Judge Roger Scott ordered that three eight-year prison spells for each killing should be served concurrently – prompting fury at the time from Victoria Fisher's father, Peter.

He said that the sentence was "disgraceful" given what Jackson had done.

Now Labour MP Gerry Steinberg, MP for Durham City where Miss Briggs's family hail from, has condemned the leniency of the sentence.

In a debate which saw MPs demand tougher sentences for killer drivers, Mr Steinberg warned yesterday that Jackson could be "out on the streets" after not much more than four years in prison.

He recalled that Miss Briggs, who worked at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary's Internet facilities, had been "a single girl with her whole life in front of her" when she and her friends had had "their lives murderously snatched away" by a self-absorbed drink-driver.

Mr Steinberg said in the Westminster debate that Jackson had so far served three years, was being moved to an open prison and would be eligible for release after 18 months there.

And he called for "concrete proposals" to be brought forward by the Government, warning that innocent people were continuing to suffer while action against offenders was "derisory" and "ineffective".

Mr Steinberg said: "I support the view that sentences imposed are not tough enough and evidence suggests that they do not deter individuals from repeating their offences, which can have such tragic consequences.

"This must be addressed or we will continue to see the appalling and heart-breaking cases which

regularly appear in the media where thoroughly decent and law-abiding citizens are mourning loved ones killed by criminal motorists."

Earlier, fellow Labour MP Denis Murphy called for new laws to "lock away"

drivers who "maim and kill" in the wake of the New Year's Eve tragedy when six-year-old Rebecca Sawyer was killed.

Her family's car was hit by banned driver Ian Carr, of Ashington, Northumberland. He was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison after admitting causing death by dangerous driving.

Carrr had 89 previous convictions and was already banned from driving for life.

"It is essential that we change the law to ensure no more families suffer the same fate as the Sawyer family," Wansbeck MP Mr Murphy said.

He called for a new offence of aggravated death by dangerous driving punishable with a life sentence.

Transport Minister David Jamieson insisted that a review of road traffic penalties had already called for increases in those for causing death by dangerous driving and other offences.

"We are urgently looking at this matter. An announcement will be made very shortly," he said.

After the debate Christine and Jim Bradford, of Rother- hithe, South London, whose son Michael, 14, was killed in January 2001, called for urgent Government action.

"It needs to happen sooner rather than later," said Mrs Bradford.

"Our lives have been shattered, devastated."

brendan.carlin@ypn.co.uk