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Curfew for “red mist” hit-and-run driver who deliberately rammed cyclist

Another motorist escapes jail for offence carrying maximum term of five years in case that raises questions over sentencing

A hit-and-run driver described by a judge as having had a “red mist” descend upon him when he deliberately rammed a cyclist, causing him multiple injuries, has walked free from court after a judge imposed a curfew on him. It’s a case that once again raises questions over sentencing.

James Reid, aged 68, had pleaded guilty at Falkirk Sheriff Court last week to causing serious injury by dangerous driving – an offence that carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

However, the Falkirk Herald reports that Sheriff Alison Michie declined to impose a custodial sentence on Reid, instead placing him under a curfew – in Scots law, a restriction of liberty order – between the hours of 8pm and 7am.

The court was told that Reid believed the cyclist had bumped into his car on Carron Road, Falkirk, on 22 November 2019.

Dashcam footage showed the driver swerving at the cyclist and knocking him off his bike, with the victim sustaining multiple fractures.

At trial, Reid acknowledged that he had “behaved badly” and “done wrong,” and that he was “genuinely remorseful.

The court was also told that he had paid damages to the victim, although the amount was not reported.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Michie noted that he had no prior convictions and an unblemished driving record, but also highlighted several aggravating factors.

She told him: “You are 68 years old and a first offender and you have a clean driving licence according to the information provided by the DVLA. However, there are a number of aggravated factors to this offence.

“The manner of your driving saw you repeatedly swerving until you struck the cyclist with your car to his very seriously injury – fracturing a vertebra and his pelvis.

“You say you experienced a red mist, believing him to have hit your car and you drove after him with the intention of speaking to him.

"You also did not stop to offer assistance – instead you turned your phone off and drove home.”

Besides the curfew that was imposed on him, Reid, from Bannockburn, was also banned from driving for two years.

It’s the second case we have reported upon here on today in which a motorist who pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving escaped prison.

Earlier, we reported how Surrey driver Leah Roots was handed a suspended prison sentence after admitting the offence, as well as drink driving and failure to stop, following an incident in August 2021 that left a cyclist in Kent with a broken neck.

> Drunk driver who crashed into cyclist, breaking his neck, walks free from court

The offence, under section 1A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, was created by section 143 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, with Cycling UK having campaigned for such an offence to be introduced, carrying as it does a longer potential jail term than the two-year sentence that can be imposed for dangerous driving.

We’ve reported on a number of cases in which drivers convicted of the offence have not been given custodial sentences, as well as others in which they have – typically, where there are aggravating factors such as failure to stop, as happened in both the cases we have reported on today.

In one such case in 2017, a senior judge said that he would write to the Secretary of State for Transport and the Lord Chancellor to ask them to review the maximum penalties in cases where someone sustained serious injury where there were aggravating factors on the driver’s part.

That followed a case in which businessman Owen Finn was jailed for three years for causing catastrophic and life-changing injuries to 16-year-old cyclist Kiernan Roberts in a drink-driving incident.

Finn, who admitted four offences including causing serious injury by dangerous driving, was also banned from driving for 11-and-a-half years, and must pass an extended test before he can drive again.

Judge Jeremy Richardson said: “I echo the views of the Court of Appeal in the case of Jenkins [2015] where a level of criticism was directed at the maximum sentence of five years for crimes of this kind.

"I respectfully agree with those observations, and it has to be said that a case of this kind, with so many exceptionally serious features, would have warranted a higher level of sentencing had it been open to the court.

"There is simply not enough room for manoeuvre within the bracket currently open to the court to tailor the sentence in a sufficiently punitive way in a case of exceptional seriousness. Such a facility obtains when death has occurred, but not where, as here in this case, life-shattering injuries have been caused as a result of a level of utterly deplorable dangerous driving with many aggravating features.

"In consequence, I shall send these sentencing remarks to the Secretary of State for Transport, and the Lord Chancellor. I simply, and respectfully, invite reconsideration of the maximum penalties open to the court in cases where serious injury has been caused due to seriously deficient driving, and several aggravating features are present. Ultimately, this is a matter for Parliament,” he added.

> Judge calls for tougher sentencing powers after jailing drink-driver who left teenage cyclist with life-changing injuries

In 2014, then Prime Minister David Cameron announced a review of the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of road traffic offences, but despite inviting evidence, the promised review has never been published, to the frustration of MPs campaigning on the issue, as well as Cycling UK which has repeatedly called for tougher sentences to be imposed.

> Where is the promised review of road traffic offences?

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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