Naomi Jones, aged 19, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving. In July 2011, she was driving with her friend Elysia Ashworth, aged 17, near Blackpool airport. Ms Jones was driving “unacceptably fast” and failed to negotiate a blind bend. She lost control of the car on the narrow, uneven road collided with a tree.
The accident investigator estimated the speed of impact with the tree as being between 30 and 35 mph. The speed at which the car was travelling as it approached the tree could not be estimated, but it was said to have been faster than 35mph. Ms Jones had only passed her test 4 months prior to the accident.
As usual, the sentencing remarks are not available, and so we only have what the press reported that the Judge said when sentencing.
Judge Christopher Cornwall said that verdict should not be called into question but in his judgment it was not far short of dangerous driving.
He said, ”There seems to have been every conceivable reason that you should have reduced your speed on that road.
”There is no doubt in my mind that the considerable jolt you experienced ought to have acted as a warning that your speed was unacceptably fast.
”There was no evidence of braking only a desperate attempt to steer around the corner which failed.”
He accepted she was not racing but pointed out ”there may however have been an element of showing off to your friends in the car and those following”.
She was sentenced to 6 months’ custody (to be spent in a Young Offender Institution as a result of her age). Given that Ms Jones offered to plead to the lesser offence prior to the trial, it is likely that she would have been given a third discount, as is usual. This means the sentence after a trial was in the order of 9 months.
She was also disqualified for 12 months (a mandatory disqualification in absence of special reasons) and ordered to take an extended re-test.
Presumably the Judge would have been referred to the guidelines (Causing Death by Driving Guideline 2008) which suggest for a case of driving falling ‘not short of dangerous driving’, the starting point is 15 months’ custody, with a range of 36 weeks to 3 years.
It can be assumed that the following were put forth in mitigation: Ms Jones’ age, the fact that the person who died was her very close friend and her relative inexperience as a driver. Conversely, the fact that she was speeding and showing off, she was unfamiliar with the road and so more caution was required, and that she had endangered Ms Ashworth’s life and the life of another passenger (who suffered injuries), were aggravating factors.
It appears that the Judge took the view that the mitigation outweighed the aggravation, and reduced the sentence, with the plea, to 6 months.
Sentences for this offence range from non-custodial sentences to 5 years. With the aggravating and mitigating factors, is 6 months commensurate with the seriousness of the offence? Some would say that 6 months doesn’t properly reflect the loss of a life.