Grieving father demands law change

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A DISTRAUGHT father whose son died in a Peebleshire car crash has called for a change in the law, writes Bob Burgess.

Furious John McLean lashed out after the French driver who killed his son avoided jail.

Mr McLean’s son Andrew, 22, died at the scene when his Vauxhall Nova was struck after teacher Jean-Baptiste Brosset drove onto the wrong side of the road.

Brosset, 23, was given a 200-hour community sentence and an 18-month driving ban at Selkirk Sheriff Court on Monday after he pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.

Sheriff Kevin Drummond painstakingly spelled out the difference between the charges of death by careless and death by dangerous driving, and why he wasn’t sending Brosset to prison.

But after the hearing, John McLean hit out at the sentencing and called for changes to the law.

He told us: “We can’t believe that an innocent man coming home could be ploughed down and killed on the road, and the man responsible for that has walked free.

“We want to lobby the government to get the sentencing law changed so that a mandatory jail sentence is given to anyone causing a fatal road accident by careless or dangerous driving. We need to send a clear message that this will not be tolerated by our judicial system.”

The sheriff had told the hearing: “The level of culpability is said to be driving without due care and attention as opposed to dangerous driving, and the kind of factors the court has to consider is whether there was a prolonged or deliberate course of ignoring the rules of the road – aggressive driving, speed or inadequate sleep, for example. None of these aggravating factors are present.”

Mr McLean was joined by 12 other family members in court. Brosset’s parents had travelled from France for the hearing.

Mr McLean went on: “We went to the court looking for justice. We did not get justice.

“We’ve seen 16 months’ jail given to people for fiddling their expenses, yet the man who killed my son gets community service. The Scottish judicial system must be the laughing stock of Europe.”

z Causing death by careless driving was introduced as a new offence under the Road Safety Act of 2006 and came into force two years’ later. Previously, any fatal road crash deaths had to be prosecuted under dangerous driving legislation which carried a high burden of culpability.

Until the 2006 legislation was passed – following sustained pressure from road safety groups – a motorist could not be jailed for a careless driving offence.

But a driver now convicted or admitting death by careless driving can be jailed for up to five years – but sentencing guidelines stress: “... sometimes deaths result from a relatively minor error of judgement to which every, however experienced, motorist is liable from time to time. Cases like these present sentencing judges with very difficult decisions because the gravest consequences have to be balanced against varying levels of culpability”.

And the guidelines say that in cases which arise from momentary inattention – which Sheriff Drummond says was the case here – the appropriate sentence should be community penalties.

Anyone admitting or convicted of causing death by dangerous driving – where the standard of driving falls what the law says is far below the minimum acceptable standard expected of a competent and careful driver - can be sent to prison for between one and 14 years.