Mother of Otley teenager killed by drink driver hopes for justice for others as law change means killer drivers could face life behind bars

A mother who fought for justice after her teenage son was killed by a drink driver has spoken of her relief as a law change is finally brought in which could see culprits jailed for life.

Jamie Still, a keen sportsman from Otley in West Yorkshire, was just 16 when he was knocked down and killed as he crossed the road on New Year’s Eve in 2010.

The driver was jailed for four years for causing death by careless driving while unfit through drink. Let out on licence, he served two years.

Now, 11 years after Jamie’s 13-year-old sister Rebecca started a petition to change the law, killer drivers will face up to life in prison as new sentencing rules come into force.

Jamie Still, from Otley. Family image

Mother Karen Summersall said that while it can never ease their pain and loss, the law change may prove some deterrent, while bringing consolation to other families.

She said: “It’s never going to change our situation. But people might consider - if drink driving can end in the result of a life sentence they might not do it.

“If it happens to another family, I hope they might get the justice they deserve. We felt we never got justice for Jamie.”

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Jamie Still pictured with younger sister Rebecca. Image submitted.

Under the new sentencing regime, which comes into effect on Tuesday, judges will be able to hand down life sentences to dangerous drivers who kill and careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs. This far exceeds the previous maximum penalty of 14 years.

It comes after findings, by The Yorkshire Post and its sister titles’ investigations team, revealed in 2016 that nobody in the UK had ever received the maximum sentence.

While 255 people had been convicted of dangerous driving in Yorkshire in the 10 years prior to 2016, less than a third were sentenced to more than five years in prison.

Some 20 people were found to have walked free from court altogether, as they were given suspended or community sentences and, in the case of three deaths, fined.

Jamie Still's sister Rebecca and mother Karen Summersall, pictured in 2016

Victims’ families had shared their harrowing experiences after the loss of a loved one, calling for sentences to fall in line with manslaughter.

Lorraine Allaway, from Long Preston, lost her 46-year-old husband Bob, in 2015. The father-of-five was killed by a drink driver who was later sentenced to 56 months.

James Gilbey, aged 25 and from Bramley in Leeds, was knocked down and killed in 2015. The two men responsible, who had been racing at speeds of 79mph in a 40 zone, fled the scene, going into hiding for two days. They were each jailed for eight years.

Reform

In October 2017 the Ministry of Justice announced plans for killer drivers to face life behind bars, with then Justice Secretary Liz Truss praising teams “tireless” work for victims’ families.

Now, 11 years after Jamie Still’s sister started a petition to change the law, their mother Mrs Summersall said: “Finally, we’ve been able to be helpful in bringing in this change.

“We both felt very insulted by the sentence. It was a slap in the face. We’d had a massive shock, and a massive loss. It was an insult.

"We got a life sentence. Not that it’s an eye for an eye, but we wanted some justice. It means this sort of crime is going to be taken more seriously.

“If you kill somebody, it’s only right that is treated with such gravitas.”

Law change

The law change comes into effect on Tuesday as a result of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act.

The reforms come alongside the creation of a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, meaning those who inflict long-term or permanent injuries also face tougher sentences.

The Government is also changing the rules to allow people with hearing loss to be granted the support of sign language interpreters during jury deliberations.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who is Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice said: “Too many lives have been lost to reckless behaviour behind the wheel, devastating families.

“We have changed the law so that those responsible will now face the possibility of life behind bars.”

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