SENTENCING STATEMENTS

 

A judge may decide to publish a statement after passing sentence on an accused in cases where there is particular public interest; where a case has legal significance; or where providing the reasons for the decision might assist public understanding.

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When deciding a sentence, a judge must deal with the offence that the offender has been convicted of, taking into account the unique circumstances of each particular case. The judge will carefully consider the facts that are presented to the Court by both the prosecution and by the defence.

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HMA v William Robert Frank Gall

 

Jul 24, 2020

At the High Court in Glasgow today Lord Matthews sentenced William Robert Frank Gall to 3 years imprisonment and disqualified him from holding and obtaining a driving licence for 6 years and 6 months after he pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.


On sentencing, Lord Matthews made the following statement in court:

“You pleaded guilty, at a Preliminary Hearing, to a charge of causing the death of an 81 year old man, Thomas Beall, by dangerous driving.

The circumstances are set out in full in the agreed narrative which was read on the last occasion you appeared in court.

Putting matters shortly, you drove for approximately 1.3 miles with unlit front headlights before striking Mr Beall as he crossed at a Pelican crossing, admittedly when the pedestrian light was red and the light for your vehicle was green. There were no audible signals at the crossing. You were well aware that the headlights were out. A warning light had come on on the dashboard showing that the battery was low and other drivers at various stages had drawn your attention to the problem. You attempted to charge the battery before embarking on the journey but that did not work to any significant extent and you turned off all non-essential equipment to try to save the battery. You switched the lights off and then back on. They worked for a time then went back out and you told your passengers that the battery was playing up again. When it was pointed out to you that other drivers were flashing their lights at you, you said “I know, I’ve got my side lights on”.

The problem with the battery was probably made worse because a week before the offence you had replaced the headlights with High Intensity Discharge bulbs which were not suitable for your car and which you had secured with cardboard.

You were driving in excess of the speed limit of 40 miles per hour, having overtaken another vehicle shortly before the collision with Mr Beall, but it is not clear to what extent that contributed, since it is impossible to say just how fast you were driving. Your dashboard was not working so you could not see how fast you were going but it is not suggested that your speed was grossly in excess of the limit

The fact that your headlights were out did not mean that a collision was inevitable. The street lights were on and Mr Keegan, who has visited the area, tells me that it is well lit, which I obviously accept. Your front seat passenger was able to see Mr Beall.  However, you were distracted at the time because you were looking at your dashboard and talking on a mobile phone which was under your jumper on your left shoulder, albeit the call was on loud speaker.

I have listened to what has been said on your behalf and taken account of all the circumstances, including those set out in the Criminal Justice Social Work report. You are a young man with children and no previous convictions libelled against you. You have certain intellectual difficulties. You were not drinking and you stopped immediately and tried to help as best you could.  One of the tragedies of cases like this is that the accused is often someone of good character who would not otherwise dream of leading a criminal lifestyle. The other and, of course, the principal tragedy is that Mr Beall has lost his life thanks to you.

Nonetheless I have to do what I can to impose a sentence which reflects all these considerations in accordance with the law.

In all the circumstances I impose a sentence of imprisonment for 3 years.  It would have been 4 years but for the timing of your plea.

In addition you will be disqualified for holding and obtaining a driving licence for 6 years and 6 months and until you resit the extended test of competence to drive. It would have been 5 years   but I am adding to that half of the period of the custodial sentence in terms of Section 35C of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.”

23 July 2020