Practice and Procedure

R v CRAIG DAVIS (2003)

PUBLISHED November 21, 2003

A sentence of six years' imprisonment for causing death by careless driving was not manifestly excessive given the defendant was driving excessively fast, aggressively and with excess alcohol. The Crime (Victim Personal Statements) Practice Direction 2001 had to be followed to ensure fairness.Appeal, with leave of the single judge, against a sentence of six years' imprisonment following a plea of guilty to causing death by careless driving. On 27 October 2002 the defendant ('D') was driving a car that had no tax or MOT. For some distance, D drove at great speed very close to the car in front of him. Eventually, on a bend, D pulled out to overtake and crashed head on into a car coming in the opposite direction. The speed limit was 30 miles per hour and it was estimated D was travelling at between 65 and 72 miles per hour. The driver of the other car, a 75-year-old man, was killed and the other three occupants were seriously injured. D left the scene and went to his sister's home who took him to hospital. He contacted police and told them about the accident and was arrested at hospital. He was breathalysed and found to have an alcohol level of 85 to 125mg per 100ml of blood, the legal limit being 80mg. A blood test also revealed traces of cannabis. D admitted driving without a licence and insurance, and said he had lost control of the car. When sentencing, the judge stated it was the most serious culpability. D appealed against his sentence, contending that it was manifestly excessive, having regard to R v Cooksley & Ors (2003) EWCA Crim 996. He further submitted that the victim impact statement, which contained comments regarding the level of sentencing, was put before the court at the last minute and was not properly prepared, so D had had no reasonable opportunity to consider it.HELD: (1) The overall culpability of D included not only his driving but the fact he was driving with excess alcohol. He was plainly unfit to be at the wheel, was driving desperately fast, hugely in excess of the maximum limit and was driving aggressively. Taking into account the guidelines in R v Cooksley (supra), even with his plea of guilty, D was in the bracket of most serious culpability and was sentenced within the range available. The sentence was not manifestly excessive. (2) Given D's submissions regarding the victim impact statement, the present court did not look at it. The Crime (Victim Personal Statements) Practice Direction 2001 1 WLR 2038 had to be followed. Where it was not followed the Crown Court should think long and hard about admitting the statement. The Practice Direction was intended to ensure fairness to everyone and in the present case fairness was not demonstrated. However, that did not affect the court's view that the sentence passed was not manifestly excessive.Appeal dismissed.