Sheffield’s top judge has asked the Government to consider whether courts should have the power to impose a ‘higher level’ of custodial sentence for dangerous driving, after a killer driver was jailed for less than 12 years.
The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, described the driving of Elliott Bower on November 9 last year as ‘one of the worst examples of dangerous driving it has been my misfortune to consider’.
The collision claimed the lives of husband and wife Vlasta Dunova, 41, and Miroslav Duna, 50 and of father and son, Adnan Ashraf, 35 and baby Muhammed Usman Bin Adnan; and left three others with life-changing injuries.
Brothers Elliott, 19, and Declan Bower, 23, were wanted by the police at the time of the collision; and were being pursued by the police when the stolen VW Golf ploughed into the people carrier containing all seven victims at a speed estimated to be 79 miles perhour.
18-year-old Mason Cartledge was in the front seat at the time of the collision, and Declan was in the back seat.
During the sentencing hearing at Doncaster Crown Court on Monday, Judge Richardson described the trio as ‘habitual criminals’ who had a desire to ‘avoid the police and evade justice’.
He said each of the defendants deserved, and would be, punished severely within the law governing the crimes they committed that night.
Driver Elliott, who was 18 at the time of the collision faced the most serious prison sentence, after he admitted to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and three counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Prosecutor, Richard Wright QC, told the court that the Court of Appeal has previously reaffirmed the principle that ‘where multiple deaths occur from a single incidence of dangerous driving the maximum penalty that might be imposed is the maximum penalty for the offence, namely a sentence of 14 years imprisonment’.
After taking Elliott’s youth into account, and the 25 per cent credit for guilty pleas that he is obliged to apply, the maximum Judge Richardson was able to jail Elliott for was 11 years and six months.
As a consequence, Judge Richardson said he will send his sentencing remarks concerning this case to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, to be considered, while the government is conducting an ongoing review of extant road traffic legislation.
He said: “It may be worthy of consideration whether a court, where there are mulitple deaths arising from a single episode of dangerous driving, particularly when the dangerous driving is of an exceptionally serious kind - as in this case - should have the power to impose a higher level of custodial sentence than would be permitted by the current law.
“I merely call this case to the attention of the Secretary of State for consideration.
“It is not for me to make this observation, but there may be some who feel that Parliament may wish to revisit the issue of the powers available to a court when sentencing in an exceptionally serious case of this kind.”
In 2016, the Ministry of Justice carried out a consultation on driving offences and penalties relating to causing death or serious injury.
The results revealed that 70 per cent of respondants agreed that the maximum custodial sentence for causing death by dangerous should be increased from 14 years to one of of life imprisonment.