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Driver in car chase that left 13-year-old cyclist dead has sentence more than doubled after victim's mother appeals

Court of Appeal agrees that original sentence of 18 months' imprisonment was "unduly lenient"...

The mother of a teenage girl killed while cycling by a car involved in a chase at more than twice the speed limit has won an appeal against what judges agreed was an “unduly lenient” sentence handed down to one of the drivers involved.

In July, Leanne Burnell, aged 21, was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment in connection with the death of 13-year-old Amy Hofmeister in June 2011. That sentence has now been more than doubled to three and a half years, reports the London Evening Standard.

In England and Wales, anyone can appeal sentences they believe are too low in certain types of serious criminal case within 28 days of sentencing to the Attorney General, who then decides whether to request the Court of Appeal to review the case.

The court can either decline to review the case, agree with the sentence imposed at first instance, or as in this case consider that it is unduly lenient and impose an increased sentence.

Burnell had been involved in a car chase through the centre of Taunton with then boyfriend Leonard Jones after the pair had left a pub, driving their respective cars at speeds of up to 80mph in a 30mph zone in what was described as a game of “cat and mouse.”

Jones was imprisoned for seven years at Taunton Crown Court in July after admitting causing Amy’s death by dangerous driving, but Burnell, who had pleaded guilty, received an 18-month jail term upon her conviction.

Amy’s mother, Jane Hofmeister, who set up a road safety charity called Think Amy following her daughter’s death, said that the increased sentence handed down to Burnell last week had enabled her to fulfil a vow she had made to her daughter.

"From the moment Amy was killed and I held her in my arms - she was already gone - but I promised her: 'Mummy will get justice and sort this’,” she said.

"I was so bitterly disappointed in July, I wanted the maximum sentence the law could provide.

"On a personal level I wanted life. Life for a life. But realistically I knew I couldn't get that with what she was charged with.

"I wanted a sentence that matched the category with which she was charged, and now, finally, I feel that I have got that, and justice for my daughter."

She maintained that Burnell had shown “no remorse” following the incident, and that she had battled to have the sentence increased in part to "teach her a lesson," adding, “hopefully this will also send a message out to people about the effects of drink-driving, and the terrible consequences of getting behind the wheel after a drink."

Sir John Thomas, sitting alongside Lord Justice Kitchin and Mrs Justice Cox at the Court of Appeal, said that the incident was a "terrible tragedy" that had led to a “devastating impact" on the family of the victim.

"There can be little doubt that the underlying cause of what happened was her [Burnell's] decision to begin the chase," he stated.

The increased sentence was announced just days after a House of Commons adjournment debate was held on the subject of sentencing and its impact on victims and their families.

Immediately following that debate, justice minister Helen Grant agreed to meet with a delegation led by British Cycling which is leading a campaign calling for a review of sentencing in cases where the victim is a cyclist.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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