A Lanarkshire woman who was imprisoned for 12 months for injuring a mother and her children by driving through a red light at a pedestrian crossing has lost an appeal against sentence before the High Court of Justiciary.

Counsel for appellant Melanie Grierson argued that a non-custodial sentence would serve all the relevant sentencing purposes. No appeal was made against a 3-year driving ban imposed alongside the sentence of imprisonment.

Disengaged with the road

The locus of the offence was a pedestrian crossing on Kirkton Street in Carluke, close to a local school. The appellant was familiar with the route, which she used daily. On a day when it was raining heavily and visibility was poor, she drove her car through a red light at 30mph and collided with a mother and her three children who were on the crossing.

All four pedestrians required hospital treatment in the aftermath of the accident, and at the date of the trial, some two years after, the mother still received ongoing medical care. In his report the sheriff observed that it appeared that immediately prior to the collision the appellant seemed to have disengaged with the road in front of her for about 14 seconds.

It was claimed by the appellant that she had not seen the red light as she was looking in her rear view mirror for an approaching ambulance. She offered to plead guilty to driving without due care and attention, but her plea was not accepted by the Crown and the case proceeded to trial. The jury unanimously convicted her of an offence of dangerous driving under section 1A of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

For the appellant it was submitted that a non-custodial sentence would be appropriate. The appellant had no previous convictions or penalty points and was genuinely remorseful. A community payback order with an unpaid work requirement, perhaps allied to a restriction of liberty order, would have been appropriate punishment.

A sad case

Lord Doherty, delivering the opinion of the court, began: 

“This is a sad case – for the victims and for the appellant. There were several mitigating factors, but culpability and harm were high. Even if the appellant was distracted by an ambulance some distance behind her, there is no escaping that she did not slow down at all on approach to the crossing.”

He continued: 

“Despite the poor weather conditions, the ‘Slow Down’ markings on the roadway, and her familiarity with the location of the pedestrian crossing, the proximity of the school, and the possibility of children making their way home from school at that time of day, she went through the red light at 30mph.”

On the sheriff’s assessment of culpability, Lord Doherty said: 

“We are very mindful that in relation to the assessment of culpability the sheriff had the advantage of seeing and hearing the evidence at the trial. We are not persuaded that his assessments of culpability or harm overstated the position in any way. We are not convinced that he failed to give the aggravating and mitigating factors due weight.”

He concluded: 

“We are not satisfied that it would be right to interfere with his judgement that a custodial sentence was necessary, or that the appropriate sentence should be 12 months’ imprisonment. In our view those conclusions are fully supported by checking that outcome using the sentencing guideline. In our judgement the culpability category here was closer to B than C, and in taking it as C the sheriff treated the appellant more favourably than he might have.”

The appeal against sentence was therefore refused.