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HMA v James Wright


Aug 10, 2021

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lord Arthurson sentenced James Wright to 3 years and 9 months after the offender pled guilty to dangerous driving and a charge of assault upon two police officers to the danger of their lives.


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

"James John Fallon Wright, on 9 July 2021 at a first preliminary hearing at Glasgow High Court pleas of guilty were tendered on your behalf to a charge of dangerous driving contrary to section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and a charge of assault upon two police officers to the danger of their lives. 

Both charges arose from the same events which occurred at 2am on 24 April 2020 on or about the M9 motorway in the Falkirk area, when you were driving a transit van. You engaged in a course of appallingly dangerous driving on a series of roads, culminating on your arrival on the M9 motorway. You were being pursued by police officers travelling behind you in a marked vehicle displaying lights and sirens.  You switched off your headlights and weaved in and out of the motorway traffic, driving at a speed of 90mph.  Having switched your headlights back on, you swerved in front of an HGV vehicle, causing that vehicle to take evasive action, and performed an emergency stop on the hard shoulder. 

The pursuit police vehicle continued past and you proceeded thereafter to rejoin the carriageway about half a mile behind that vehicle.  Accelerating, you caught up with the police vehicle, and, travelling in excess of 70mph in the outside lane, you deliberately rammed the police vehicle from behind.  The driver of the police vehicle estimated his own driving speed at the time of impact at 80mph.  You lost control of your vehicle, and, rotating round the police vehicle, left the road and crashed into trees. 

You have accrued to date 7 groups of previous convictions, all at summary level, principally for crimes of violence.  The index offending represents accordingly a very considerable escalation in the gravity of your offending behaviour.  Dangerous driving on your part which began as, in effect, driving away from officers to evade detention, changed in its nature and gravity when you then decided actively to pursue their vehicle at high speed on a motorway and to strike that vehicle deliberately, thereby using your transit van as a weapon against them. 
Notwithstanding the cogent and forceful submissions of your counsel in support of a community based disposal, I have reached the view that the only conceivably appropriate disposal in your case requires to be a substantial custodial one.  To assault two police officers acting in the course of their public duty to the danger of their lives is on any view a crime of considerable gravity; to do so using a van as a high speed weapon on a motorway in such circumstances as these is, in the context of a non-fatal road traffic case, a crime of quite exceptional gravity, albeit that here, through pure good fortune, the officers sustained no actual injuries. 
I have listened carefully to what has been said on your behalf by your counsel in mitigation and read with equal care the criminal justice social work report which has been prepared for this morning’s sentencing hearing.  A psychiatric report was available at the last calling of the case. I note in particular your supportive family circumstances and your materially significant mental health history. You have pled guilty at a relatively early stage in these proceedings and that too will be taken into account.  I further note from the report your complete lack of remorse for this offending, albeit note also that your counsel has advised this morning that you are extremely remorseful.
In the whole circumstances I now proceed to disposal as follows.  On charge two you will serve a sentence of imprisonment of 18 months duration, discounted due to the timing of your plea from the maximum tariff available under the Act for dangerous driving, namely 2 years.  Concurrent with that sentence you will, in respect of charge three, serve a sentence of imprisonment of 3 years and 9 months duration, discounted from a period of 5 years. I regard that headline tariff as a restricted one in the whole circumstances of this indictment, and have selected it having regard to in particular your significant mental health background, and to a lesser extent, the lack of actual injury arising in this case. These sentences will be backdated to the date of your initial remand in this case, namely 9 July 2021.  In respect of both charges you will in addition be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 6 years, discounted from a period of 8 years. Finally, I confirm that in the event of any future application by you to drive again you will require to sit and pass an extended test of competence to do so."