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HMA v Ceilidh Lynn Howie


Nov 27, 2020

At the High Court in Edinburgh today Lord Arthurson imposed a Community Payback Order of 3 years duration with a supervision requirement throughout, and a requirement of 300 hours of unpaid work to be carried out within the first year, on Ceilidh Lynn Howie after she was found guilty of causing death by careless driving. The accused was also disqualified from driving for a period of 6 years.

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

“Ceilidh Lynn Howie, on 30 October 2020 at Edinburgh High Court you were convicted of a single charge of causing by your careless driving on 6 May 2018 on the Port Seton to Longniddry B1348 coastal road the subsequent death on 21 May 2018 of Mr Ian Wilson.  The Crown at your trial invited the jury to convict you of causing death by dangerous driving, but the jury after deliberating preferred to assess the criminal standard of your driving that afternoon as careless rather than dangerous.  You had offered to plead guilty to the charge which the jury convicted you of both at the outset of your trial and at the commencement of these proceedings against you by section 76 letter dated 29 April 2019.

On the evidence before it the jury, in returning the verdict it did, must in my view be taken to have found that you drove carelessly insofar as you seriously misjudged an overtaking manoeuvre while driving at excessive speed and that you did not allow yourself enough time to return to your lane on the westbound carriageway.  While I accept that this amounted to a single piece of driving, your error of judgment was significant and had of course catastrophic and indeed fatal consequences.  Having regard to this badly misjudged overtaking manoeuvre and to your excessive speed as you did so, I have elected to locate your driving on the occasion libelled in the middle of the range or spectrum of culpability applicable to cases such as these.  I have in doing that considered not only the definitive guideline referred to by your senior counsel this morning but also to the whole evidential circumstances which were presented to the jury during the trial.  There are no aggravating features in your case but there are some personal mitigating features, namely your attempts to provide assistance after the crash and the remorse which you have expressed in respect of Mr Wilson’s death, which remorse has been assessed as genuine by the author of the background report prepared in respect of you.  An additional mitigating feature can also be said to be your relative lack of driving experience.

You have a short schedule of previous convictions, comprising summary non‑analogous offending.  You are now aged 24 and were aged 21 at the time of this offence.  You appear to be in a stable relationship and are in employment.  You have ongoing caring responsibilities for a relative.  You have been assessed as presenting a minimum risk of future offending.  In addition I should add that I have listened to and propose to take into account in this sentencing exercise the submissions of your senior counsel advanced this morning on your behalf.

In the whole circumstances I have concluded, having regard to what I already said concerning your driving on 6 May 2018, that the offence before the court passes the custody threshold.  Through your criminal conduct Mr Wilson tragically lost his life, and his family in turn have lost a much‑loved husband, father and grandfather respectively.  These are the dreadful consequences which you will have to live with, and for my part I very much appreciate that no sentence which the court can impose today could possibly redress or even address the scale of grief and loss which Mr Wilson’s family will continue to bear following his death.

Notwithstanding the gravity of your offending and its consequences in this case, I have determined that for certain particular reasons I can step back from the imposition of custody this morning and impose upon you instead a robust community‑based disposal together with a lengthy period of disqualification from driving.  These reasons are as follows:  (i) the remorse demonstrated by you (a) at the time of the crash in your actions aimed at assistance, (b) subsequently in what you have said to criminal justice professionals and through your senior counsel today, and (c) your willingness from the very outset of these proceedings to take responsibility for your criminal conduct by your early guilty plea;  (ii) your decision not to get behind the wheel of any vehicle since the crash in 2018;  (iii) your age at the time of the offence and your relative inexperience as a driver;  and (iv) your lack of any previous driving convictions.

For these reasons I now propose to impose, in place of a sentence of imprisonment, a Community Payback Order of 3 years duration.  That order will have a supervision requirement throughout and in addition a requirement that you carry out 300 hours of unpaid work within the first year of the order.  I make no provision for discount having already taken your early plea into account in electing to draw back from a custodial disposal today. On the basis that you understand and accept the terms of the order which I propose to impose, I now accordingly make that order.  You will in addition be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 6 years.”

27 November 2020