Staring at the picture of her beautiful teenage daughter Payton ‘Poppy’ Sparks, Lisa Garner knows she’ll never see her grow into a mature woman.
Every day is a painful reminder of that fateful moment when the 16-year-old girl was killed in a car accident in Petersfield Road, Havant.
Poppy, of Leigh Park, was a passenger in a car driven by Lewis Young, 19, who was on a cocktail of drugs and alcohol when he lost control and smashed into a building.
He was jailed for eight years.
But it pains Lisa to know that in just half that time, Young will be out and get the chance, albeit while still on licence, to start a family, while Poppy will never be given that same opportunity.
Which is why she is such a strong supporter of our campaign to ensure that people who cause death by dangerous driving get the time they deserve.
This, as stated on page five, comes as the number of cases of death by dangerous driving has increased from 164 in the 12 months to September 2012, to 226 in the 12 months to September 2013.
Lisa said: ‘He’ll come out and have kids.
‘It kills me.’
Poppy’s stepdad, Joe Spencer, 35, said the 14-year maximum jail term for such a crime meant nothing, since a lot of offenders don’t get that long, and changes to the system have to be made.
‘In four years, their family, his mum, dad, and the driver – they can have their
Christmas round the table,’ he said.
‘We’re never going to have that.
‘I’ve lost heart in the justice system.’
The pain is just as unbearable for Rose Allsop, whose daughter Jasmine Allsop, 14, was killed by a car driven by Samuel Etherington, 20, in Ann’s Hill Road, Gosport.
The tragedy also took the life of Jasmine’s best friend Olivia Lewry, 16.
Rose hopes Etherington – who was jailed for nine years but will serve four and a half – will never set foot in the town again.
‘It’s just been such a drastic change in our lives,’ she said.
‘I hope he never comes back to Gosport.
‘I don’t want anything like this to happen again.
‘There are so many idiots driving on the road.
‘I don’t want anyone else with a son or daughter to go through what I have.
‘I have been through hell and back.’
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage is considering asking for Etherington’s sentence to be reviewed, and has stressed the need for a higher maximum sentence to be issued.
She said: ‘In instances like this, it would be helpful if there was a higher maximum sentence to give out.
‘These incidents are really tragic and really heartbreaking for the families involved, and this one particularly so because the guy was driving at twice the speed limit, had a cocktail of drugs and was on the wrong side of the road. He’s taken two lives so it’s saying that each of those lives is only worth four-and-a-half years.
‘I’m not a lawyer, but it just seems to be wholly insufficient.
‘A lot of people in Gosport feel the same way – it’s a community in shock.’
Road safety charity Brake has also thrown its weight behind the push for tougher penalties. Brake spokesman James McLoughlin said: ‘We also need tougher sentencing guidelines – and are expecting a review later this year – to ensure judges use the full range of their powers, and hand out sentences up to the maximum in the most serious cases.
‘Our justice system should make clear that risky, illegal behaviour on roads is no accident. It’s selfish, destructive, and unacceptable.
‘Low sentences often cause further distress to injured or bereaved families – something we regularly bear witness to through our support services for crash victims.’
CASE STUDY: Samuel Etherington - nine years
KILLER Samuel Etherington was jailed for nine years after admitting two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
He had taken mephedrone and ketamine, and was travelling at more than twice the 30mph speed limit when his souped-up green Honda Civic hit Jasmine Allsop, 14, and Olivia Lewry, 16.
The 20-year-old was driving on the wrong side of the road when he hit the girls at about 65mph as they stood near the middle of the road with their arms around each other, Winchester Crown Court heard.
Jasmine, 14, who lived yards from where the crash happened at about 4.15am on November 3, near the junction of Ann’s Hill Road and Brougham Street, Gosport, died at the scene.
Unemployed sports coach Etherington, of Stoners Close, Gosport, who was unhurt, denied two counts of manslaughter.
The Crown Prosecution Service accepted his guilty plea to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
In sentencing Etherington, Judge Guy Boney QC said it was one of the ‘worst cases’ and deserving of a ‘severe sentence.’
He chose 12 years as a starting point due to mitigating factors.
Etherington could have received a third off for his guilty plea.
But Judge Boney said there was never a ‘shred of a defence’ to the charge and so only reduced it by a quarter to nine years.
It was revealed he was convicted of driving without due care and attention, failing to stop for a police officer and using a vehicle with defective tyres exactly two years before the crash.
He was also caught speeding on a motorway at 92mph in January 2012.
After this he was then banned as a result of clocking up 10 points within two years of passing his driving test.
CASE STUDY: Lewis Young – eight years
LEWIS Young was racing at speeds of up to 80mph before he crashed, killing 16-year-old Payton Sparks.
He had downed a cocktail of alcohol, mephedrone and ketamine before taking the keys to his dad’s car and crashing in Petersfield Road, Havant, on May 25 last year.
It was revealed in court he had five previous driving convictions, including for driving without a licence, without insurance, and while disqualified.
The 19-year-old was seen to drag Payton into his father’s Vauxhall Tigra after sending her a text message demanding she leave a party in Stone Square, Leigh Park, and meet him.
She asked her 14-year-old friend Thomas Frost to go with her, which he is believed to have agreed to in a naive bid to protect her. He was seriously injured in the crash.
Young raced along at speeds of up to 80mph to Whichers Gate Petrol Station in Rowlands Castle, where he stole £15 of petrol and sped off with no lights.
He overtook two vehicles on two double bends – Poppy and Thomas were both shouting at him to slow down.
At the court case last year, prosecutor Simon Edwards told the court: ‘He lost control, slid across the oncoming carriageway, mounted the verge, and collided heavily with a telegraph pole, a tree and a building.
‘The car impacted with such ferocity it caused the immediate death of Payton and Thomas Frost sustained serious injuries.’
After the case Sergeant Rob Heard, from the Hampshire road death investigation team, said the eight-year sentence was ‘practical’ but that he would have liked to see Young get 14 years.
Top driving penalty same as for house burglary
THE maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving is 14 years – the same as a house burglary and handling stolen goods.
And latest government figures show only six in ten people – 62 per cent – convicted of killing someone through risky driving are jailed, and only nine per cent are sentenced to five years or more in prison.
The Crown Prosecution Service accepted Samuel Etherington’s guilty plea to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving – and it was not found to be ‘in the public interest’ to pursue manslaughter charges which he had denied.
Lewis Young had a long list of previous convictions with at least 10 serious driving offences.
But Sergeant Rob Heard, from Hampshire’s road death investigation team, said he thought his eight-year jail term was ‘practical’ but ideally would have liked him to have the maximum 14 years.
In criminal law, a judge sets a tariff – a minimum sentence – on a particular crime.
Murder is one of these, and while there is no minimum tariff, in practise they usually start at 15 years.
Killing a police officer carries a minimum of 30 years.
Ian Robinson, a partner and specialist in criminal law at Churchers Bolitho Way, said: ‘The power of the press can bring about changes and there is a history of that.
‘The sentences imposed by judges very much have to reflect the circumstances of each case.’
How to make changes to sentencing
THIS is a step-by-step guide to how the law on death by dangerous driving can go about being changed:
· A politician would raise the issue and it would be referred by the attorney general Dominic Grieve to the Law Commission, which would then consider the changes and put forward a proposal for parliament to consider.
· The matter would then go through the standard parliamentary debate before moving forward.
· The attorney general is the main legal advisor to the government, and in some jurisdictions they may also have executive responsibility for law enforcement, public prosecutions or even ministerial responsibility for legal affairs generally.
· The Law Commission is a statutory independent body that keeps the law under review and recommends reform where it is needed. The aim of the commission is to ensure that the law is fair, modern, simple and as cost-effective as possible.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
As part of this campaign The News wants to pass on the thoughts of people in this area to the people in power.
Get in touch with us to give your backing to the push for stiffer sentences.
· Email firstname.lastname@example.org
· Write to us at The News, 1000 Lakeside, Western Road, North Harbour, Portsmouth, PO6 3EN