Latest Death By Dangerous Driving Case Law in Scotland
Today at the High Court in Glasgow Lord Brodie sentenced Paul Munro to 3 years and 4 months imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving and disqualified him from driving or applying for a driving licence for 7 years. Danny McBean died on 18 September 2009 on the A862 Inverness to Beauly road near Lentran
In terms of the Road Traffic Act 1988 a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously (which is what you have pled guilty to) if the way in which he or she drives falls far below the standard that would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and that it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
There is, however, a quite wide range of driving that can properly be described as dangerous and the appellate courts, both in Scotland and England, have emphasised that while the tragic consequences are very important, the main consideration in determining what is an appropriate sentence must be the culpability of the driver as judged by the gravity of the dangerous driving involved and the surrounding circumstances. I have to follow the guidance of these higher courts. I therefore must look at the various factors that the courts have held must be considered in order to place this case at its appropriate point on the scale of cases of causing death by dangerous driving.
Turning to the gravity of your dangerous driving, I depend on the description provided by the Advocate Depute on 28 July 2010, and what was said on your behalf by Mr Smith. To summarise, you lost control of your vehicle and –
- It can be inferred that your loss of control was the result of excessive speed which had been maintained over a significant distance. I take that distance to be the little over 4 miles referred to by Mr Smith, being the distance between Clachnaharry and the point in the road where you lost control of your car.
- It can also be inferred that driving ability (and you were a relatively inexperienced driver) and judgement were impaired by the consumption of alcohol. As has been said by a very senior judge (the now Chief Justice of England and Wales in R v Richardson) “Everyone knows, or should know, that the consumption of even small quantities of alcohol undermines the ability of any driver to apply his full concentration to the road.”
- The accident occurred some time after 2245 on Friday 18 September. At 0302 hours on Saturday 19 September, you gave a blood sample from which was calculated a blood alcohol level of 121mg/100ml
- I have noted that it is considered by those that compiled the Collision Investigation Report that had Mr McBean been wearing a seatbelt he would have remained in the vehicle and would, in all probability, have escaped serious injury
- I do not see that as reducing the culpability of your driving (a point that has been made by the Appeal Court – Wright v HMA  HCJAC 16) – although it is yet another illustration of the importance of always wearing seatbelts whether travelling in the front or the back of a vehicle
- What I do, however, see as of relevance, and as a point in your favour, that, as noted by the author of the Social Enquiry Report, when explaining to her what happened, you did not attempt to place any responsibility or blame on Mr McBean or any other person.
My attention was drawn to the cases of Wright and Richardson. In Richardsonthe English Court of Appeal laid down guidelines as to the level of sentence in various categories of cases of causing death by dangerous driving. These cases identify factors which may aggravate culpability. In Wright the Appeal Court in Scotland held that it was appropriate for judge in Scotland to have regard to these guidelines.
Of the aggravating factors, those that are present here are
- excessive speed
- over a distance
- your consumption of alcohol – blood alcohol of 121mg/100ml
Before looking to the mitigating factors which are present here, I would regard this as a case of higher culpability as that expression was used in R vRichardson.
However, as Mr Smith pointed out and I accept, in this case there were present all the mitigating factors identified as relevant in the guideline cases
- previously good driving record
- absence of previous convictions
- timely plea of guilty
- genuine remorse – and Danny McBean had been your good friend
- your youth (you were just 20)
I must take into account all of these factors in the case and I note.
- that you pled guilty at the earliest opportunity which allows me to accept your expression of remorse as genuine
- your acceptance of full responsibility as demonstrated by early plea and confirmed by what appears in the Social Enquiry Report
- your recognition of the impact on Danny McBean’s family
- your good character as demonstrated by the Social Enquiry Report and the reference from your employer
I nevertheless consider that I have no alternative but to impose a custodial sentence having regard to the nature of the offence to which you pled guilty.
Having regard to the guideline cases, the various factors that I have identified, the contents of the social enquiry report and what has been said on your behalf, the sentence of the court will be 3 years and 4 months imprisonment from today’s date. That reflects the discount which I must allow given your plea of guilty by way of the section 76 procedure. If it had not been for your plea of guilty the sentence would have been one of 5 years imprisonment.
In addition I shall disqualify you from driving or applying for a driving license for a period of 7 years and thereafter you will be required to pass the extended proficiency driving test before you can drive again.”
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