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Prime Minister responds to MP of couple killed in January

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.

15 comments

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Ham-planet [112 posts] 2 years ago
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Positive news, though it is a shame that it has taken this long.

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a.jumper [846 posts] 2 years ago
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Great. Now what about justice for Audrey Fyfe and that youngster killed by the cancer doctor?

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PJ McNally [591 posts] 2 years ago
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maybe they should review the sentencing on the previous 11 occasions?

Why could we not sentence "near-misses", for example, similarly to those instances where someone has actually been killed? Or do we have to wait til someone dies, to get these people off the road?

(Before anyone points it out - i know he was disqualified from driving already. But he also consistently demonstrated that such disqualification would not stop him driving, til he killed someone - or, two people).

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thebungle [103 posts] 2 years ago
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Perhaps every driver who kills a cyclist either intentionally or by accident should automatically receive a full life term or possibly even the death penalty.

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jollygoodvelo [1410 posts] 2 years ago
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Unfortunately, whether there's an offence of "Causing serious injury by dangerous driving" or not, the 'dangerous' part sabotages it. It's quite difficult to prove 'dangerous' rather than 'careless' driving - even in cases such as this one! - and therefore the CPS tend to downgrade to 'careless' in order to get a conviction rather than going for 'dangerous' and losing.

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jollygoodvelo [1410 posts] 2 years ago
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thebungle wrote:

Perhaps every driver who kills a cyclist either intentionally or by accident should automatically receive a full life term or possibly even the death penalty.

Don't be bloody ridiculous.

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thebungle [103 posts] 2 years ago
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Gizmo_ wrote:
thebungle wrote:

Perhaps every driver who kills a cyclist either intentionally or by accident should automatically receive a full life term or possibly even the death penalty.

Don't be bloody ridiculous.

I'm being facetious.

But it does beg the question; what sentence, punishment or rehabilitation program is appropriate if you take a life while behind the wheel?

Do you distinguish between 'Dangerous Dave' who was clearly driving like a dick and has a history or reckless driving versus 'Sensible Simon' who has a faultless driving record?

ps are you on PH?

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Jim1971 [6 posts] 2 years ago
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Like most of you i am sure, this tipe of incident is often talked about with your riding group. And i imagine like myself most of you have had near misses where youv'e been waving fingers and shouting at drivers. Most drivers just reply with more of the same as they have no idea how close to hitting you they were.
Maybe as many have staited before all drivers should have some cycle awareness training to pass the driving test.
Even better would be a compulsary 12 months riding before they are aloud to start driving lessons. Then they would actually realise how much space is safe to give a cyclist!

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racyrich [250 posts] 2 years ago
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Disqualified or otherwise unlicenced drivers should not have the luxury of being tried using motoring laws. It's assault with a deadly weapon, or in this case, double manslaughter.

The judges in this country seem obsessed with guidelines. They are for guidance only, not slavish adherence. Two people killed, 2 counts of death by dangerous driving. Two maximum 14 year sentences to serve consecutively. 28 years. Plus any time remaining from previous suspended sentences or probation for the earlier crimes. Job done.

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Simon_MacMichael [2450 posts] 2 years ago
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racyrich wrote:

The judges in this country seem obsessed with guidelines. They are for guidance only, not slavish adherence.

That's incorrect.

"According to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, when sentencing an offender for an offence committed on or after 6 April 2010, a court must follow any relevant sentencing guidelines, unless it is contrary to the interests of justice to do so."

Source: http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/sentencing-guidelines.htm

Now you can argue that in this case, the interests of justice would be served by a punishment that is more severe than the one according to the sentencing guidelines, but that will only apply in exceptional cases.

As it says, "a court must follow any relevant sentencing guidelines" - hence the "slavish adherence" you mention; it's what they have to do.

Departing from the guidelines can of course leave the way open for an appeal against the sentence on the grounds that it was "manifestly excessive."

That's another reason that the guidelines will only be ignored rarely.

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jollygoodvelo [1410 posts] 2 years ago
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thebungle wrote:
Gizmo_ wrote:
thebungle wrote:

Perhaps every driver who kills a cyclist either intentionally or by accident should automatically receive a full life term or possibly even the death penalty.

Don't be bloody ridiculous.

I'm being facetious.

But it does beg the question; what sentence, punishment or rehabilitation program is appropriate if you take a life while behind the wheel?

Do you distinguish between 'Dangerous Dave' who was clearly driving like a dick and has a history or reckless driving versus 'Sensible Simon' who has a faultless driving record?

ps are you on PH?

Fair enough.  3

Your question is a valid one and I don't know the answer. Is there a difference between an accident caused by carelessness or a lapse in concentration (pulling out of a junction without having looked "properly"), and an accident caused by insufficient driving standards full stop (pulling out of a junction without looking at all)?

And yes. Shh.  3

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jollygoodvelo [1410 posts] 2 years ago
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racyrich wrote:

Disqualified or otherwise unlicenced drivers should not have the luxury of being tried using motoring laws. It's assault with a deadly weapon, or in this case, double manslaughter.

That's an interesting idea.

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A V Lowe [575 posts] 2 years ago
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Insurance companies who for obvious reasons are well ahead of the courts in understanding this issue, feed in the the data which indicates that around 20% of drivers are responsible for 80% of crashes and claims.

A close review of the HGV drivers in London (and elsewhere) who have killed will reveal that a substantial number of the killer drivers have 'form', most notably Denis Putz (20 driving bans, 3 drunk driving, 3 dangerous driving, and prison terms for this) yet no one took away his Category C licence to drive HGV's.

Many responsible companies with company cars, will monitor their drivers and act to train or restrict the drivers who consistently show bad driving behaviours (speeding points etc). Vocational licences - for driving the vehicles most likely to kill & maim can be revoked without the need for a court appearance and driving charge, if the driver is proven to be unfit to hold that licence. OK they can still drive cars and vans up to 7.5T GVW but not the most deadly ones.

We can press for a greater action on penalty points. It is scandalous that the excuses made have allowed drivers to continue with up to 42 penalty points when in theory they should have been banned at 12. The driving ban is part of the sentence, and if you lose your licence you have to do exactly the same as someone who cannot drive, arrange your life accordingly, and when you need to use a private car, pay for a driver to drive it - they're called taxis, or chauffeurs, where they drive your car for you. The driving licence essential detail is rubbish, and an insult to victims when it is played by the defence.

We need a far stronger line that a driving ban is a driving ban, and a far stronger network to pass details of EVERY driving offence committed by a vocational licence holder, so that the regulator for vocational licences is clearly kept in the picture, and can act to remove the Class C (Rigid = up to 32T) D (Buses & Coaches) and E (Articulated trucks) licences from people who pose the highest risk. They can also restrict or even close down the firms who are less rigorous about checking their employee details, after all when the Police checks reveal drivers with no insurance and no HGV licence, who gives them the truck to drive? Indeed who provides the cars to the uninsured and unlicensed who as in this case go on to kill with a car?

There is a little lateral thinking detail - do you sink the battle cruiser or drain the ocean it needs to get around? So is it removing the driver from the car or the car from the driver we need to focus on? removing the driver from the cars (by the level of unlicensed drivers) certainly isn't working effectively.

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workhard [397 posts] 2 years ago
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racyrich wrote:

Disqualified or otherwise unlicenced drivers should not have the luxury of being tried using motoring laws. It's assault with a deadly weapon, or in this case, double manslaughter.

Bingo. You're disqualified and you choose to drive a car and injure, main or kill someone? Then you should face criminal charges just as if you've deliberately used a weapon in the street to kill, maim or injure.

You should not be afforded the protection of the motoring laws.

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edster99 [336 posts] 2 years ago
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Gizmo_ wrote:
racyrich wrote:

Disqualified or otherwise unlicenced drivers should not have the luxury of being tried using motoring laws. It's assault with a deadly weapon, or in this case, double manslaughter.

That's an interesting idea.

+1. Along lines that if you aren't a 'proper driver', you don't get the protection of being tried under driving laws. Works for me.