Claire Perry MP supports campaign to prosecute serious cases of causing death by dangerous driving as manslaughter
Today in Parliament (Tuesday, September 13), Devizes MP Claire Perry is introducing a debate she has secured on the sentencing of those found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.
She has been supporting the campaign by her constituent Major Richard Gilbey for the worst cases to be treated as manslaughter rather than as a driving offence. Major Gilbey is attending the Westminster Hall debate.
His son James was killed while walking across the road on a pelican crossing. He was hit by one of two cars that were racing at more than twice the speed limit through Leeds streets.
After James was killed, the drivers left the scene and Majid Malik, the driver of the car that hit James at 79 mph, burned his clothes and abandoned his car. Passengers in the cars did not answer police appeals and have never been traced.
Majid Malik and Kaiz Mahmoud (the other racer) were sentenced to eight years in prison and could be out again in four years.
Mrs Perry has appeared with Major Gilbey on ITV's Good Morning Britain to support his campaign. The story of his son's killing and of the devastated family left behind has been told in the national press and on local news media.
Major Gilbey has started a petition on the government website which has so far collected 7,320 signatures. With high-profile recent instances of 'hit and run' deaths, the issue was raised in the House of Commons and the Prime Minister, who has a similar case in her own constituency, confirmed that the Justice Department is reviewing sentencing for dangerous driving.
Talking to Marlborough.News, Major Gilbey expressed amazement at the sentence given to the two men who killed his son: "Why do we keep allowing these people to kill people with cars - the judicial system seems to take an almost flippant attitude to it. Eight years for taking a young man's life so callously. And an automatic fifty per cent reduction - why? I've never really had an answer."
He blames both politicians and the judicial system for current sentencing policy: "James was twenty-five and could have expected fifty more years - their sentence equates to four years of their lives for taking my boy."
He feels let down by the trial at Leeds Crown Court. The judge's summing up was tough on the two accused men and on Malik in particular: "It was the manner of your racing which pushes this into the most serious category in my judgment - because your acceleration was madcap." Then, for the Gilbey family, came the let down of the sentences: "Eight years is a smokescreen."
It still hurts that in court the guilty men's family celebrated the leniency of the sentences shouting out: "They'll be home in four years." And it hurts too that the men's community has closed ranks against witnesses to James' killing and that the two men are appealing on various grounds.
In her interview on Good Morning Britain, Mrs Perry said: "The worst sorts of death by dangerous driving need to be treated as manslaughter." Major Gilbey points out that degrees of seriousness for this offence are already specified in the Sentencing Guidelines.
For example, this is how the guidance defines the most serious level with a sentence of 7-14 years: "The most serious offences encompassing driving that involved a deliberate decision to ignore (or a flagrant disregard for) the rules of the road and an apparent disregard for the great danger being caused to others."
To which Major Gilbey responds with a question: "What do they have to do to get fourteen years?"
Why, Major Gilbey, asks, are deaths caused by cars considered under driving laws - deaths by shooting are not brought to court under firearms legislation: "These deaths shouldn't be downgraded to a driving related incident. They say America has a gun culture - I think Britain has a car culture."
Major Gilbey will continue his campaign: "I need to do this for James. If nothing comes of it this time, I'll go on for a second and a third time - until someone takes notice."
He also wants to campaign for greater rights for victims' families. He says the rights granted to the defendants before and during the trial far outweighed any rights the family had.
Why, he would like to know, does a defendant in this sort of case have 28 days to decide whether they want a second post mortem - so delaying the victim's funeral and causing extra anguish to the family.
The only right Major Gilbey had was to deliver an impact statement after the verdicts and before sentencing: "It hurt like hell to write it...heart breaking to do it."
But his priority is to get the most serious cases of death by dangerous driving charged and tried as manslaughter: "We don't want just to change the name to manslaughter - we need the maximum sentence of life to be available - that's what manslaughter can carry."
Only then, he believes, will there be an appropriate deterrent to stop these tragedies happening to other families.
Major Gilbey's petition is on the government website.
As the 'mainstream' media only very rarely finds space to report such debates, Marlborough.News will be reporting today's Westminster Hall debate just as soon as we have access to the Hansard text.