The Peterborough Telegraph’s campaign to increase judge’s sentencing powers to include giving life sentences to intoxicated drivers who kill has been backed by road safety organisations.
Currently, the maximum sentence a driver can receive is 14 years. However, in 2017, the Government outlined plans to increase that maximum, to include life sentences. The plans have not yet been implemented.
The campaign was launched after Tommy Whitmore was jailed for eight years and four months after killing three people in a crash on a Peterborough parkway.
His sentence is currently being reviewed by the Attorney General after complaints it was too lenient.
Whitmore was twice the drink drive limit and had also been taking cannabis when he drove the wrong way down the Frank Perkins Parkway, colliding with the car carrying Marko Makula, 22, and passengers Jana Kockova, 21, and Tomos Kocko, 19.
Marko and his fiancée Jana were parents to two young children who were left orphaned by the crash. Tomos was Jana’s younger brother.
Speaking to the Peterborough Telegraph, one retired Crown Court Judge said they had ‘raised their eyebrows’ when they saw the sentence passed, describing the case as one of the worst imaginable – and said longer sentences should be available to judges.
The former judge, who asked not to be named, said: “My eyebrows were raised when I read about this case
“Judges not only have the law to apply but also sentencing guidelines issued under the authority of statute.
“Although a judge may depart from those if there is good reason to do so [s]he must give reasons why.
“Presumably the A-G has applied to refer the sentencing in this case to the Court of Appeal on the basis that it is too lenient and if so we must await the outcome.
“It is very difficult to imagine a worse case of its sort and my personal view is there should be longer sentences available.”
Following the sentencing hearing, Marko’s brother Mario described the sentence as insulting – a view shared by Brake, the road safety charity.
A spokesman for the charity said: “Shockingly lenient sentences are an insult to bereaved families and, far too often, grieving relatives are left to feel grossly let down by our legal system.
“We need laws that act as a deterrent to other dangerous drivers, and penalties that reflect the suffering caused.
“The Government must prioritise implementing the changes to the maximum sentence for careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs announced in 2017 and commence a broader review of road traffic offences, delivering justice to bereaved families.”
The AA has also backed the campaign for harsher penalties and deterrents for drink and drug drivers who kill –and they also called for more police on the country’s roads to stop intoxicated motorists getting behind the wheel and destroying lives.
A spokesman said: “Countless lives are ruined by drink and drug driving and hence we believe that the penalties should reflect this.
“However, quite often the current maximum sentences are not imposed by the courts so one has to question whether stricter penalties would be enforced at the maximum level.
“ This is an issue which we believe the judiciary should address.
“We would also like to see more cops in cars out there to act as a deterrent to drink/drug drivers and to stop them from killing and causing carnage.”
The Peterborough Telegraph’s campaign has also been backed by Ann Howard. Ann’s brother Michael was killed when the motorcycle he was riding was struck by the stolen car driven by Neville Smith. Smith – who was jailed for just six years and four months – was high on drugs at the time of the crash
Ann said: “We know that giving bigger sentences will not bring your loved one back but it does give you peace of mind the offender will at least share some of your pain for their crime.”
This week Cambridgeshire police launched their summer campaign to stop people getting behind the wheel if they have been drinking or taking drugs.
Between June 2018 and May 2019 there were 859 arrests in Cambridgeshire relating to drink and drug driving offences. Over the next two weeks officers will be running dedicated patrols and checks across the county.
Sergeant Ian Manley from the Road Policing Unit said: “Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is extremely reckless and in some cases can have fatal consequences. Just one drink can impact your reactions and it’s unacceptable that there are still far too many people who are willing to risk their lives and the lives of others.”
Speaking about the crash which claimed the lives or Marko, Jana and Tomos, Sgt Manley said: “There is no sentence that can bring back the parents of the two young children. Anyone considering drinking or taking drugs and getting behind the wheel should pay heed to this case, which has devastated families and led to a lengthy prison sentence for a young man.”
n If you wish to report drink or drug driving, there is a dedicated, confidential hotline. The hotline – 0800 032 0845 – is available 24/7.