HMA v Stephen Jones [2021] HCJAC 8

Mr Jones, the respondent, pled guilty by way of s76 letter to a combined charge of causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving on the B792 south of a farm access road on the 8th of January 2019. Mr Jones had been driving a single decker bus. The charge stated that he repeatedly drove onto the opposite side of the carriageway, drove at excessive speeds for the road layout, failed to negotiate a left hand bend and drove onto the opposite carriageway directly into the path of an oncoming vehicle. The average speed of the bus had been 43mph in a 50mph zone. The respondent had advised the police that the sun had dazzled him and some evidence of this was present on the bus’s cameras.

The driver and passenger of the vehicle, Ian and Helen McKay, were so severely injured that they died. The 4 passengers of the bus were injured some more severely than others. The preliminary hearing judge imposed a sentence of 3 years imprisonment (reduced from 4 years 6 months). The Crown appeal was based on that being unduly lenient.

Mr Jones had 4 previous convictions – two of which were for speeding and two for careless driving. His wife was very reliant on his care.

The judge, in sentencing, had taken into account the circumstances of the offences including mitigation as well as considering the Definitive Guideline on “Causing death by dangerous driving” issued by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales concluded that the offence was within the high end of level 3 of the guidelines.

It was submitted at appeal for the Crown that the sentence was unduly lenient in that it failed to recognise the seriousness of the danger presented. In particular that it was a public service vehicle with passengers, there was excessive speed, the conditions reduced visibility on the road and the collision occurred when Mr Jones did not negotiate a bend and instead crossed to the wrong side of the carriageway. There were aggravating factors as well including the relevant previous convictions, the death of two people and the injury of 4 more. The Crown submitted that under the English Guidelines the correct range would be level 2.

The respondent stated that the judge had not erred in the circumstances.

The court stated that:

“We do not think it can be said that the sentence falls “outside the range of sentences which the judge at first instance, applying his mind to all the relevant factors, could reasonably have considered appropriate”. The appeal must therefore be refused.”