Heartbroken mum backs our campaign for tougher sentencing on killer drivers

Mel Plackett with a picture of her deceased daughter Emma.

Mel Plackett with a picture of her deceased daughter Emma.

The devastated mother of a teenager who was killed in a horrific road crash is backing our news group’s Drive for Justice campaign for tougher sentences in death by dangerous driving cases.

Johnston Press - which owns the Derbyshire Times, Matlock Mercury, Buxton Advertiser, Ripley and Heanor News, the Ilkeston Advertiser and Belper News - has launched the Drive for Justice campaign across its many publications to lobby Parliament to change the sentencing guidelines.

JAILED: Dennis Squires, 35, of Jubilee Crescent, Clowne, was imprisoned for death by careless driving and was jailed again for further driving offences.

JAILED: Dennis Squires, 35, of Jubilee Crescent, Clowne, was imprisoned for death by careless driving and was jailed again for further driving offences.

Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Service figures have revealed that drivers who kill are only being sentenced to an average of just four-years-and-one-month with dozens of others being spared from jail altogether.

Meanwhile, Mel Plackett, of Tupton, Chesterfield, has told how she and her family have been left with a lifetime of heartache after the death of her 18-year-old daughter Emma Plackett.

The youngster lost her life after driver Dennis Squires, 35, of Jubilee Crescent, Clowne, overturned a Citroen Saxo, on Buttermilk Lane, near Shuttlewood, killing passenger Emma Plackett in March 2008, and he was jailed in January, 2009, to six-years-and-eight-months for death by careless driving.

But following an early release on licence after serving only half his prison term he committed further driving offences including driving while banned, refusing to stop for police, exceeding the drink-drive limit and driving without insurance and he was jailed again for 18 weeks in November, last year.

Ms Plackett said: “The sentence he received is all we could have expected because of the way the legal system works. Technically, he should have got ten years of custody but got a third knocked off for a guilty plea and then he was allowed to serve half and was released on licence which allowed him to commit further offences and he was put back inside. But I understand he has now been ordered to stay in jail and serve his full original sentence on licence.

“We were lucky to get a judge who came down hard with an extended licence so if anything else happened he would go back to prison.

“I do feel the justice system has done well within the rules but I would support a campaign for stiffer sentencing for death by dangerous driving cases. When you think it’s about taking a life it’s a bit of a joke because originally serving just three-years-and-four-months in our case was nothing.

“In another country, causing death by dangerous driving could be classed as murder or manslaughter because a car can be a murderous weapon.”

Ms Plackett feels sentences should be served fully without defendants benefitting from a third reduction if they plead guilty and then going on to serve only half of that sentence before they are released on licence. She feels tougher sentencing would be just and appropriate and may serve as a deterrent and help encourage safer driving among some motorists.

But whatever sentences are handed out, Ms Plackett explained she and her family have been left with a lifetime of anguish after Emma’s death.

She added: “It’s a life sentence for us. There is always someone missing for us at Christmas and we all feel the same and it is a horrible time.

“There is a constant reminder as we all get older but part of our future has gone and we will never see Emma grow up.

“There are also a lot of people out there who did not get the same kind of justice we got but if this campaign does some good for the next people to suffer at the hands of dangerous drivers that cannot be a bad thing.”

Our campaign is calling for appropriate tougher sentences for those who cause death by dangerous driving to serve as justice for the victims’ relatives and to serve as a greater deterrent and to encourage safer driving.

A long delayed consultation on a review of sentencing in death by dangerous driving cases has been promised by Government ministers to begin by the end of the year.

CONCERN FOR RELATIVES OF VICTIMS OF KILLER DRIVERS SPARKED CAMPAIGN

Grief-stricken families - like Chesterfield victim Emma Plackett’s - have sparked the Drive for Justice campaign after hundreds of lives have been lost at the hands of motorists since 2010.

Last year, the number of people dying on Britain’s roads increased for the first time in recent years with provisional figures published by the Department for Transport reporting 1,780 deaths - which is a rise of 49 by comparison with 2014.

In cases where road deaths arose from criminal offences, Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Service figures also revealed that at least 800 lives have been lost at the hands of motorists since 2010.

An investigation by Johnston Press, which owns the Derbyshire Times, has revealed that campaigners have criticised the courts for a chronic leniency in dealing with those sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving.

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows:

In the 12 years since Parliament increased the longest sentence from 10 to 14 years in jail, not a single person has been handed the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland;

Of the 738 people convicted between 2010 and 2015 for the offence of death by dangerous driving, just seven were jailed for more than ten years;

The average jail sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is four-years-and-one-month with 46 per cent of all those convicted sentenced to less than four years in prison;

A total of 111 people convicted of death by dangerous driving between 2006 and 2015 have walked free from court with 93 receiving suspended jail terms or community orders.

Chesterfield Labour MP Toby Perkins said: “The heartbreaking injury of losing a loved one to irresponsible driving is often accompanied by the insult of inadequate sentences for the perpetrator.

“I entirely support the Derbyshire Times’ important campaign to ensure that in future the punishment will fit the crime.”

Campaign group Brake is also calling for a clear timetable from the Government on when a review of death by dangerous driving laws will begin.

The national organisation is backing Johnston Press and the Derbyshire Times Drive for Justice Campaign.

Gary Rae, Brake campaigns director, said: “As a charity we see first-hand what families go through after the devastating loss of a loved one due to a dangerous driver. On top of the raw pain of the loss, the bereaved friends and relatives suffer further due to a lack of help and support.

“The final insult can then be when the criminal driver responsible is given a sentence that the family feel simply doesn’t fit the crime. If you killed someone with anything other than a vehicle, you would be charged with manslaughter or even murder.

“In September, the Prime Minister Theresa May promised a review into criminal driving laws would start before the end of the year, after acknowledging there is an issue here. There are just a few weeks of this year left and still we’ve heard nothing. Brake is now joining with the Drive For Justice campaign in calling for a clear timetable of when a review will happen.”

Labour MP and former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw also argued that current sentencing is wholly inadequate.

He said: “The penalties and sentences passed on people who kill behind the wheel of a car are wholly inadequate and have been so for many years.

“The Government has consistently dragged its feet on addressing this. We have had warm words from a series of ministers but no action.

“It is time that our law reflected the fact that when you get behind the wheel of a vehicle you are in charge of a lethal weapon. If you kill somebody by misusing that weapon you should receive a punishment that is appropriate to the suffering that you inflict on your victims and their families.”

Even though a consultation on a review of sentencing in dangerous driving cases has been promised by Government ministers to begin by the end of the year the Ministry of Justice has declined to confirm a date.

An MoJ spokesman said: “This Government is determined to make sure sentencing fits the crime for those who kill or seriously injure on our roads.”

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