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HMA v Fayyadh Abdulazizi Alkhaeriji

 

Jul 29, 2020

At the High Court in Glasgow today Lord Matthews sentenced Fayyadh Abdulazizi Alkhaeriji after the accused pleaded guilty to causing death and extreme injury whilst driving without due care and attention. He also pleaded guilty to driving without insurance. The accused was admonished and disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 3 years and 9 months.


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

“You pleaded guilty to driving a hired vehicle without due care and attention causing severe injury to three members of your family and extended family, minor seatbelt injuries  to a passenger in another vehicle, damage to a number of vehicles  and most tragically the death of your sister. You have also pleaded guilty to using the vehicle without insurance. You will know better than I do how her loss in particular has affected your family and I need not dwell on it. I am sure that not a day goes past when you and your family do not think of her and wish that events had taken a different turn.

On the last occasion this case called the Crown read an agreed narrative of events and I need not repeat what was said.

For all the dreadful consequences of what happened the carelessness on your part was at a very low level. The Crown accept that you were momentarily distracted by talking within the vehicle and this led to it straying into the opposite carriageway to the extent of no more than 72 centimetres. It collided with an HGV causing your rear door to be torn off and your sister to be partly ejected leading to the fatal injuries which she sustained. The damage to other vehicles and the injuries to other persons occurred as part of the chain of events which followed the initial collision.

Your vehicle was heavily laden and 5 passengers, including your sister, were in the rear seat which is only supposed to accommodate 3. Your aunt’s decision to travel with you contributed to that.  None of the rear seat passengers was wearing a seatbelt and you were responsible for ensuring that two of them, who were children, were wearing them. One of them was severely injured.

I am prepared to accept that Saudi law, at least as you understand it, only requires the driver and front seat passenger to wear seat belts but you should have familiarised yourself with the law in this country. However, you were not responsible for your deceased sister’s decision not to wear a seat belt.

Your father had hired the vehicle and, while he was insured to drive it, you were not. Only drivers over 25 years of age were permitted to do so. I understand that you thought that it was the car which had to be insured and not the drivers but once again it was your responsibility to check the position under the law of this country.

I have read the reports which have been prepared and have listened to what has been said on your behalf.

You are a young man of impeccable character. You are a student at university in Saudi Arabia and those studies have obviously been interrupted by these events.

In normal circumstances, given the low level of culpability so far as the driving is concerned, I would have imposed a Community Payback Order.

This case, however, is exceptional. These events occurred nearly 4 years ago. You were released on bail and returned to Saudi Arabia, as you were entitled to. Your visa expired and you applied for another so that you could enter the UK again and answer to the indictment. However, the British Embassy refused your application on 23rd May 2017 because it did not specify that you had been charged with these offences. I understand that the application was made by an agent on your behalf. The case was due to call in court for a Preliminary Hearing on 28 July 2017 but it was postponed at the request of your lawyers, a further diet being assigned for 1st September 2017. A further application for a visa was submitted on 9 August 2017, this time including details of the charges. In addition, on 10th August 2017, your lawyers wrote to the British Embassy in Riyadh and the International Co-operation Unit at Crown Office in support of the application so that you could attend the continued Preliminary Hearing. Another letter was sent to the Embassy by your lawyers on 14 August 2017 but the Embassy refused the second application under the Immigration Rules because the refusal on 23rd May resulted in an automatic entry ban for a period of up to 10 years.

This meant that you could not enter the United Kingdom and a warrant was granted when you did not appear at the continued Preliminary Hearing. It was not executed for a period to allow further efforts to secure your entry to the United Kingdom but these efforts were frustrated by the refusal of a visa and the lack of an extradition treaty between the UK and Saudi Arabia. I am told that the British Embassy in Riyadh did not reply to correspondence either from your lawyers or from the International Co-operation Unit within Crown Office. Why that should be so, I cannot think.

In any event, in an effort to resolve the deadlock, which the casual observer might think was down to inflexibility and red tape, a European Arrest Warrant was issued, leading to your arrest in France while on holiday with your parents on 28 August 2019.  You were then held in custody in prison in France until 1 September 2019 and you did not oppose extradition to this country.

You were brought here without your family, who had to return to Saudi Arabia. On 13 September 2019 you were released on bail to live with another sister in Cardiff. Since then you have not been able to work or study in the United Kingdom, other than completing online modules for your degree in Saudi Arabia.

Your financial support has come from your father, whose daughter, lest it be forgotten, was killed as a result of the collision.

This case has now been hanging over you for some considerable time. You have been cut off from most of your family and have been unable to work or complete your degree and it is likely that you now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A prison sentence is out of the question. If I were to impose a Community Payback Order your father would doubtless have to support you while you completed it in this country, but there is no indication how long you would have to stay here before you could even start it because of Covid-19. I do not even know if you would be allowed to stay here to complete it. The author of the Criminal Justice Social Work report emailed the Home Office on 16 July to find out and had not received any reply by the time of writing the report, which is dated 22 July 2020. Nor do I know under what conditions, if at all, such an order would be enforced in Saudi Arabia if you went back there.  I do not think it appropriate to contribute to the delay and no doubt add to the expense incurred by your father by adjourning further to try to find out. Any fine I imposed would obviously be paid by your father, which would be grotesque.

In all the circumstances I propose to adopt an exceptional course. On each of charges 1 and 2 you will be admonished. On charge 1 you will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 3 years and 9 months. It would have been 5 years but for the fact that you offered to plead guilty in the terms now accepted before the preliminary hearing on the 2nd indictment which was served. On charge 2 you will be disqualified for a concurrent period of 18 months, reduced from 2 years because of the timing of the plea.

28 July 2020