Prime Minister David Cameron has told a Bristol MP that the sentence handed down to a disqualified driver who killed a married couple as they enjoyed a tandem ride may be reviewed.
Ross Simons, aged 34, and his wife Clare, died in January this year when they were hit by a car driven by Nicholas Lovell, who had shortly beforehand been spotted driving erratically by a police officer who set off after him.
Lovell, aged 38, had initially fled the scene of the fatal collision in Hanham on the outskirts of Bristol, but handed himself in to police later that day.
Banned from driving in 1999, he had 11 convictions for driving while disqualified, and had also been convicted on four occasions of dangerous driving.
At his trial in April, he pleaded guilty to causing the couple’s death by dangerous driving, and in May he was sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison.
While the offence carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, the judge handed down the longest jail term that could be imposed under current sentencing guidelines.
Lovell’s partner, Louise Cox, was herself sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for attempting to pervert the course of justice after supplying police with a false name and description of the driver.
In June, Chris Skidmore, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, where Mr and Mrs Simons lived, joined their families in launching a petition calling for tougher offences for drivers who repeatedly offend. So far, more than 8,000 people have signed it.
At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Mr Skidmore asked: “Will the Prime Minister receive the petition at Downing Street?
“Does he agree that the law in this area should be looked at?”
In reply, Mr Cameron said:
“I will certainly look at the petition that my hon. Friend talks about, and I would like to join him by offering my condolences to the friends and families of Ross and Clare.
“This is the most appalling crime: someone with 10 previous convictions, as my hon. Friend says, and who was disqualified at the time driving dangerously and killing two people, snuffing out their lives.
"The sentence was 10 years. As I understand it, the maximum sentence available for a crime like this is 14 years.
“The Government have introduced a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, so we are looking at this whole area.
“I can also tell him that the Justice Secretary has asked the Sentencing Council to review the sentencing guidelines for serious driving offences, and we should look at this specific case in the light of that.”
That review of sentencing, as well as the investigation and prosecution of cases in which vulnerable road users including cyclists are the victims, will take place in the new year.
It was confirmed by the government in what was widely regarded as an otherwise lacklustre response to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling Report last month.
The review has come about partly due to a sustained campaign involving British Cycling and CTC, among others, with representatives of the organisations involved also meeting last year with former justice minister, Helen Grant to outline their concerns.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.