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HMA v Stephen Craig Jones

 

Sep 15, 2020

At the High Court in Edinburgh today Lord Doherty sentenced Stephen Craig Jones to 3 years imprisonment and disqualified him from driving for 4 years and 8 months after the accused pleaded guilty to causing the death of two people and the serious injury of a third person by dangerous driving.

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

‘Stephen Craig Jones, you have pled guilty by s 76 letter to causing the death of two people and the serious injury of a third person by your dangerous driving on 8 January 2019. At the time you were the driver of a single decker service bus which you were driving along the B792 road between Torphichen and West Calder. You have pled guilty to repeatedly driving onto the opposing carriageway, driving at an excessive speed for the layout of the roadway, failing to negotiate a left hand bend, and driving onto the opposing carriageway directly into the path of an oncoming Vauxhall Corsa car driven by Ian McKay. His wife, Helen McKay, was the front seat passenger in the car. Both Mr and Mrs McKay sustained severe injuries from which they died. A passenger on the bus, Agnes Marshall, sustained serious injuries in the collision.

The bus had a camera, and I have had the advantage of viewing film footage leading up to the collision. It is clear from that footage that it was a sunny day and that, for brief moments during the footage, the sun was dazzling. I accept that the sun may well have briefly impaired to some extent your clear view of the road ahead immediately before the collision. However, while the sun may have been a contributory factor to the collision, in my opinion it is plain that there were other more substantial causes for which you are wholly responsible. You were driving too fast for the road layout and for the weather conditions. It must have been plain to you that there was a risk of being dazzled but you did not moderate your speed. It is also clear from the footage and from the statements of bus passengers set out in the agreed narrative that on the road between Torphichen and West Calder on a number of occasions in the lead up to the collision you failed to keep to your own carriageway and that you drove on to the opposite carriageway.

In view of the gravity of the offence the interests of justice require the imposition of a custodial sentence. In determining the appropriate sentence I have obtained assistance from the Sentencing Council for England and Wales’ Definitive Guideline on ‘Causing death by dangerous driving’, but I have endeavoured to avoid slavish adherence to it. At the end of the day what is important is that the sentence which I pass ought to reflect the culpability of your conduct, including any aggravating and any mitigating factors.

It seems to me that the starting point ought to be that the circumstances of your offence fall within level 3 of the Definitive Guideline. I have had regard to all that has been said on your behalf. In particular, in your favour, I take account of the fact that you have pled guilty. I also have regard to the fact that your being dazzled by the sun was a contributory factor to the tragedy which unfolded. I accept that you are genuinely remorseful. I also have regard to your role as a carer for your wife and to the fact that she will suffer by being deprived of your care and support while you are in prison. However, in my opinion your conduct in the lead up to the collision gave rise to significant danger and it involved significant culpability on your part. That conduct caused two deaths and the serious injury of a third person. You have four relevant previous convictions, two in 2003 for speeding, and two for driving without due care and attention in 2014 and 2016. I attach much more weight to the more recent convictions than I do to the earlier ones in light of the age of those earlier convictions. In my judgement the whole circumstances put your offence at the high end of level 3 of the Definitive Guideline.

Had it not been for your early plea of guilty I would have imposed a sentence of four and a half years imprisonment and I would have disqualified you from driving for a period of 7 years. In light of the utilitarian value of your early guilty plea the sentence which I do impose is one of three years imprisonment and disqualification from driving for a period of 4 years and 8 months. Thereafter if you wish to drive you will have to pass the extended driving test. The sentence of imprisonment will run from 18 August 2020, the date that you were remanded in custody. The disqualification will run from today’s date.”

15 September 2020