Families are united in fight to bring in tougher sentences

CAMPAIGNING Lisa Garner, whose daughter Payton Sparks was killed in a car crash, is backing a News campaign for tougher sentences
CAMPAIGNING Lisa Garner, whose daughter Payton Sparks was killed in a car crash, is backing a News campaign for tougher sentences

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THE News is today launching a new campaign calling for an increase in the maximum jail sentence for death by dangerous driving.

The families of Payton Sparks, Olivia Lewry, and Jasmine Allsop have been left heartbroken after losing their beloved teenage daughters in two separate car crashes.

Now Payton and Jasmine’s families have joined our campaign to bring them justice by ensuring deadly drivers everywhere get more time behind bars.

It comes as the number of cases of death by dangerous driving has gone up from 164 in 2011 to 2012, to 226 in 2012 to 2013. Only nine per cent of drivers convicted get more than five years.

The maximum sentence available to judges has increased from 10 years to 14 in 2004 – but grieving parents say that’s not nearly enough.

Payton, 16, known as Poppy, was killed when Lewis Young, 19, lost control and hit a telegraph pole, tree, and building after taking a cocktail of mephedrone and ketamine. He was sentenced to eight years in jail.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Jasmine, and her best friend Olivia, 16, were killed when Sam Etherington, 20, ploughed into them while driving more than double the 30mph speed limit.

He was handed a nine year jail term.

Poppy’s mum Lisa Garner, 35, of Botley Drive, Havant, said: ‘I back this campaign 100 per cent. I was too upset to take it further after the hearing but I’m much stronger now and I want to take this as far as possible.’

Jasmine’s mum, Rose Allsop, 38, said: ‘I back The News’ campaign 100 per cent. I think it’s absolutely disgusting that Sam Etherington got nine years for two deaths. I think the maximum sentence should be life.’

After Etherington’s sentence, Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage raised the matter in the House of Commons.

She asked prime minister David Cameron to look again at what she has called elsewhere an ‘unduly lenient’ maximum sentence.

Backing the campaign, Ms Dinenage said others have contacted her since she raised it in parliament.

She said: ‘It’s taking a life. Since raising the case of Samuel Etherington, I’ve been getting a lot of grief from Twitter trolls who are saying “it’s just an accident.”

‘Driving 65mph on the wrong side of the road with a cocktail of drugs inside you, no-one should take to the roads in that condition. Those lives can never come back. It’s robbed two girls of their future and two families of their children.’

There has already been a backbench debate over the sentencing guidelines in the House of Commons.

It was prompted after the killing of a husband and wife on a tandem in Bristol by a disqualified driver with a long list of prior convictions.

Chris Grayling MP, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, is keeping the law under review.

He has already written to the Sentencing Council, which issues guidelines for judges on how to sentence crimes.

It has committed to reviewing its guidance for death by dangerous driving.

But any change in guidelines would not increase the maximum sentence above 14 years – and that is why The News is calling for a change in the law.

Both Etherington and Young will only serve half their sentences behind bars and will serve the rest of their term afterwards in the community on licence.

Sentencing Council guidelines say that during this time, an offender will be subject to supervision and conditions will be imposed. If they’re breached, offenders may be sent back to prison to serve the rest of their time.

· Additional reporting by Miles O’Leary, Stuart Anderson, and Elise Brewerton.