Killer drivers in Cambridgeshire are being given ‘far too lenient sentences’

Tommy Whitmore
Tommy Whitmore

Motorists who cause death by dangerous driving in Cambridgeshire commonly serve just two to three years behind bars, figures show.

Road safety charity Brake says grieving families are often left feeling “grossly let down” by lenient sentences, and called for a change in the law.

The Peterborough Telegraph is campaigning for judges to be able to impose life sentences for drivers who kill while under the influence of drink and/or drugs.

The campaign was launched after Tommy Whitmore was given an eight year sentence for killing Marko Makula, 22, and passengers Jana Kockova, 21, and Tomos Kocko, 19 in a horror crash on the Frank Perkins Parkway in April. He was twice the drink drive limit and had been taking cannabis before the collision.

His sentence is now being reviewed by the Attorney General after complaints it was too lenient.

The Peterborough Telegraph’s campaign has had backing from a former Crown Court Judge, road safety charity Brake and The AA.

Currently, the maximum sentence courts can hand down is 14 years imprisonment.

Between 2008 and 2018, 46 people were convicted for causing death by dangerous driving in the area covered by Cambridgeshire Constabulary, according to Ministry of Justice figures

Of these, 42, or 91%, were sent straight to prison, while four received a suspended sentence.

The most common prison sentence was between two and three years – eight offenders were handed a sentence of this length.

The most severe punishment given out was between seven and 10 years, accounting for three sentences, while the most lenient was between just nine and 12 months.

Prisoners who are sentenced to less than four years in prison are automatically released half-way through.

Those sentenced to more than this are also eligible for release after serving half their time, but only if they are granted parole.

A spokesman for Brake said the Government must prioritise introducing tougher sentences.

He said: “Deaths and serious injuries on our roads cause terrible suffering every day.

“Tragically, drivers who kill all too often receive lenient sentences leaving grieving relatives feeling grossly let down by our legal system.

“We need laws that act as a deterrent to dangerous drivers, and penalties that reflect the suffering caused.”

The average sentence for causing death by dangerous driving in England and Wales during 2018 was 64 months, according to RoadPeace, which campaigns on behalf of crash victims.

A spokeswoman said many cases that start out as dangerous driving end up as causing death by careless driving, which carry much more lenient sentences.

“Too often bereaved families have their suffering aggravated by the complacency in our justice system,” she said.

“Lenient sentences and paltry compensation settlements leave families feeling like the death of their loved one meant little to society and the public.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “Killer drivers ruin lives and can already face a maximum of 14 years in prison for their crimes.

“We intend to give courts the power to hand down life sentences for death by dangerous driving – sending a clear message to those who drive irresponsibly. Proposals for a change in the law will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows.”